National Life and Character/Chapter 6
THE DECAY OF CHARACTER
The question postulated is whether the changes that increase the influence of the State may not diminish the sphere of individual energy.—The inquiry is complicated by the consideration that a strong motive—such as the love of power or fame may stimulate energy, even where circumstances are most unfavourable, as in ancient Athens.—Moreover, the Church and Army develop individuality in some ways, though they crush it in others.—Religious influence has been stronger than ethical in past times. What then will be the result if the State takes the place of the Church in organising society, and if science supersedes it in criticism of the past and in divination of the future?—A tendency to disbelieve in the miraculous may leave unaffected the faith that there is a moral government and foreordering of the world.—It need not therefore destroy a temperate belief in the efficacy of prayer.—The belief in a future state is likely to be less positively held.—These changes, though they may leave religion in society as an appreciable element, are bound to impair its influence over the masses, which was once great and good.—The austere tradition of Puritan family life, with its strength and its shortcomings, has gone for ever, and is replaced by a sensuous, genial, and fibreless society.—Women are bound to be profoundly influenced by the changes that are making them more and more like men, as they are exempted from tutelage, encouraged to stand alone, and induced to occupy themselves with pursuits hitherto esteemed masculine.—State education and State military service are bound to render the intellect more mechanical and to sap the energy that is developed by competition.—The right of public meeting is likely to be limited in the future, and this will interfere with the power to give instantaneous body and form to new thoughts by the contagion of popular feeling.—The immigration of aliens in large numbers is likely to be restricted everywhere, as also the right of individuals to practise their professions or trades in a foreign country.—This will add enormously to the power an administration now has over those who criticise or oppose it. Exile will mean ruin.—It is anticipated by some that the future has in reserve for us great scientific discoveries which will at least elevate the mind, and which may perhaps reconcile reason and faith.—This is to assume that doctrines which aim at spiritualising the character can be reduced to the condition of problems that satisfy the intellect. They would lose all that is distinctive in the process. The most that can be said is, that religion will gain when its teaching does not outrage possibility, and science by learning that it is not all-sufficient.—Beyond this there is reason to suppose that science has done her greatest and most suggestive work. There is nothing now left for her but to fill in details.—Certain forms of literature, such as the epic, the drama, the pastoral, and the satire appear to be already exhausted.—The real genius of the age takes a lyrical form, and is feeble and incongruous when it attempts any other.—Moreover, life has been toned down, so that there is much less wealth of strong incident and effective situation than was the case anciently.—Again, when work has been perfectly done the artist does not care to attempt it again, and the world will not tolerate reproductions. Topics are being exhausted.—This, however, will tell after a time even more against lyrical poetry, because the single mood or situation is less capable of variety than the human character.—The novel is not likely to replace poetry for work of the highest kind. History, however, which is perpetually accumulating fresh material, may furnish practically inexhaustible material to minds of the highest order.—Criticism has only recently begun to exist. It is likely to exercise a growing influence over all matters of science as observation and thought are accumulated.—While, however, there is a comparative certainty about the judgments of science, the criticism of taste is apt to be very variable, as if fixed canons could not be applied with precision to living men.—Criticism generally errs by being too eulogistic, or, at least, disproportionately eulogistic.—As, however, it is likely that the classical and best models will be discarded as contemporary literature grows upon us, criticism will suffer, because its standards will be impaired.—Although the results of science admit of being communicated in good style, science is passing so much into the hands of experts that its familiar interpretation will cease to be needed.—Oratory is likely to be reduced more and more to debating and to the skilful enhancement of commonplace.—It seems probable that as the special correspondent is superseding the traveller, so journalism will absorb more and more of the world's practical intellect; even the abstract thinker finding it advantageous to communicate his ideas through a newspaper with large circulation.—But the journalist writes for the day, and his best work is only of ephemeral value.—It is conceivable that the duration of life will be prolonged, and that the chances of health will be enormously increased by scientific improvements. It would seem as if this ought to increase self-confidence and energy.—A world predominantly of old people will be a world of more stable political order and greater efficiency of exact thought.—On the other hand, it will be a world with less adventure and energy, less brightness and hope.—Neither will ambition be so powerful a motive of action as when a single man—Caesar or Chatham—could initiate and carry out a policy of his own.—Again, it is possible that the most important and sensational changes have already been effected.—Fame is perhaps a little less capricious than of old; but it is less valuable from being more widely distributed.—This will be especially true of literary fame, as some kinds of literature are dying out, and the competition in those that survive will elicit many candidates for distinction.—The limitations imposed by State Socialism on private enterprise are never likely to be so far-reaching as to preclude money-making and destroy the passion for wealth.—Wealth, however, will be valued as the source of power and ostentation, not as the means of founding a family.—We are realising our highest dreams, and they mean a more stable and equable order, less aspiration, and less energy.—The decay of vital power in the race does not mean that it will become extinct; but that it will gradually lose interest in all but the day's needs.—It is inspiriting to remember that the world has passed through stormy times before, and has been depressed, and yet the results have been better than expectation. As we can trace advance hitherto, why should it not be continued in the future?—The faith in progress is based upon an assumption as to the Divine purpose in creation, which is not only gratuitous, but opposed to facts.—All that can be said is, that if we are passing into the old age of humanity we may at least bear the burden laid upon us with dignity.
So far an attempt has been made to show that the races of the world are approaching a stationary condition as regards territorial limits between Aryan and others, what we call the higher being confined for practical purposes to a part of the Temperate Zone; that democracy is likely to find its consummation in State Socialism; and that certain notable influences, such as attachment to a Church, municipal feeling, and even family feeling, are likely to become less and less important as factors in the constitution of society. The great possible motors of action, if these changes actually take place, will be the sense of duty to the State, and the self-reliance of individual character. The patriotic feeling is likely to be enhanced by a sense of the great services which the State will render in the new order; by the habit of military discipline which universal service in the ranks will create; and by the mere fact that as the feelings lose a sufficient object in Church, city, or family, they will tend to concentrate themselves upon the fatherland. It remains to consider what effect the new importance of the State may have upon personal energy and independence of thought. The strength of the State can hardly be more than the sum of strength in its individual members; and it is at least conceivable that we may get political organisations which are more complete than have ever yet been—that is, which attempt more and do more—but which are yet deficient in the spiritual reserve which an older and more imperfect society possessed in the initiative and resource of its members. To take examples from history, let us assume—merely as a hypothesis—that modern society is tending more and more to the form of society that prevailed under the Incas, and that such men as Drake and Frobisher, Clive and Warren Hastings, are likely to become rare and disappear.
The initial perplexity of such an inquiry is, that it is extremely difficult to avoid the conclusion that energy of character may assert itself in certain epochs with apparent disregard of political institutions. Athens in its best time was a country in which the limitations of originality in thought or action were enormous. To be suspected of entertaining new views about religion was dangerous, and impiety was charged against statesmen like Pericles and Alcibiades, philosophers like Anaxagoras and Socrates, as effectively as if they had been statesmen of the seventeenth century in Europe. To be wealthy was to be suspected of peculation, and to be powerful was to invite ostracism. The general charged with the command of an expedition might find his plans disconcerted by omens that disheartened the forces, and was almost certain to be recalled on the smallest check. Scarcely any man was more popular than Nicias, who was religious and liberal, and whom all instinctively felt to be "a safe man"; yet Nicias, having a nervous temperament, is said to have lived in such constant disquietude, that he walked the streets day by day with a hang-dog look. Fortunately, Nicias was the rare exception, and the typical Athenian of those days, as we know him, was a man of reckless political and moral courage, setting his fortunes at stake fearlessly in the incessant contest for political power, going to any extreme against his opponents, and speaking his mind about government or religion without regard to the probability that he might be prosecuted. In fact, to take modern parallels, the freedom of thought resembled that of Paris during the last half-century of the monarchy, and the energy of initiative that of the English statesmen who created the Indian Empire. The most simple explanation is, that the Athenian of those days saw magnificent possibilities of fame and power before him. It was possible, even probable, that Athens might become the queen city of the western world, whose commands would be obeyed from Sicily to the shores of the Euxine. In that case the men who had made Athens would have a harvest of immortal glory, and if they lived to see their work done, would be the most enviable of men, rewarded by praise, wealth, and power. The vision quickened those who beheld it to immortal action.
It would seem, accordingly, that we must start upon any examination into the causes that modify character with the postulate that several and perhaps even many races are inherently energetic; and though they may be depressed for a time by foreign conquest, or by poverty, or by bad government, as the modern Italians were for centuries, it is never safe to predict that they have lost the power to rise again. Another important consideration is, that some institutions which seem to crush originality in one direction, may be found to favour the formation of a strong character in another. The influence of every Church, Christian or otherwise, is to discourage examination of those truths which it teaches as fundamental. It allows the intellect of its followers to be apologetic, explanatory, and, it may be, even complementary, but forbids it at all hazards to be critical. Beyond this, every Church is tempted to compromise with human frailty so long as its own supremacy is recognised. It often, almost habitually, prefers the immoral man, who gives it no trouble, to the moral man, who is always fingering his conscience and doubting how far the Church system is adequate. To a considerable extent, accordingly, the Churches proscribe independence of speculation, and weaken the springs of character by relaxing the moral fibre. On the other hand, every Church has a rule of life which is more ascetic and severe than men in general would naturally adopt, and its demands in this way are commonly in proportion with its shortcomings in other directions. The Catholic Church, for instance, which puts Dante and Darwin into the Index Expurgatorius, and which is very gentle to sins of the flesh when it speaks through Jesuit fathers in the confessional, does yet exact severe sacrifices from its members: forbids them to attend the theatre or the racecourse, orders them to fast, regulates the relations of husband and wife, and constrains, where it is obeyed, to a great deal of ceremonial observance. A man who complies with the rules of the Church is tolerably certain to be narrow-minded and deficient in his apprehension of independent morality; but he ought to have acquired habits of self-denial, which will partly make up for what he has lost ethically, and which will even fit him to think better, within certain limitations, if he can be trained to think at all. The Army, again, is and is intended to be a great school for extinguishing self-assertion. The ideal soldier is one who obeys orders mechanically without considering whether they are wise or right. Nevertheless, military discipline is generally regarded as elevating to moral character; the man who will suffer privation and face death at the call of duty gaining, as a rule, more by this than he loses by sacrificing the habit to do only what his conscience approves; and this is more markedly the case than ever since the laws of war have been made comparatively moral and regardful of human rights. On the other hand, the soldier is generally found wanting in flexibility when he turns his attention to the business of common life.
Taking now the great principles or motives that have influenced conduct in past times, we may surely assign the highest place to the obligations of morality and religion, which it is not always easy to distinguish from one another. Both agree in telling us to do what we recognise as our duty, because right is right; but the moralist does not care to go beyond the fact that we get our reward in this life in the spiritual elevation which transforms humanity into something higher and better; while the religious teacher, as a rule, tells us that we shall be additionally rewarded or punished by carrying our purified or degraded natures into a new state of existence. The teaching which promises most has undoubtedly had the largest influence in bygone centuries; partly because its propagators were more zealous, and partly because men and women were more fascinated by the vision of a new life without weakness or sorrow, and with the fruition of all knowledge, than by the noble commonplaces of morality. Therefore, if the Churches lose their hold upon society, as they seem to be doing in certain directions, because the State has appropriated many of their functions and is discharging them better, the change will be very momentous, though it may be balanced by gains which will be more than proportionate to the losses. We may conceive, for instance, that a population which has had its intellect quickened in State schools, which has been subjected to discipline in the State army, and which the State has compelled to work, and has tried to keep from excess in drink, may furnish more promising subjects for Christian teaching than the dwellers in great cities, mostly ignorant, often idle and vicious, have contributed hitherto. This, however, is not the anticipation entertained by the Churches in general, and as corporations guided by clever experts are commonly alive to their own interests, the view of religious leaders has to be considered. It is probably correct to say, that thoughtful churchmen conceive the Churches to be losers by all the State improvements which tend to take the relief of poverty into secular hands. Beyond this, they regard with alarm the disinclination of the Civil Government to be bound by religious precedent in such matters as the laws of marriage, the observance of the Lord's day, or the repression of sexual immorality. But what is most dreaded is the growth of an independent and purely secular school of thought,—especially in science and history, whose conclusions may come to influence school teaching, and to permeate society. No religious man doubts that the highest scientific teaching is compatible with ardent religious faith. The names of Herschel, Brewster, Faraday, the Hamiltons, Secchi, St. George Mivart, and in History, of De Tocqueville, Guizot, Palgrave, and Stubbs,—a few names out of a host—are sufficient evidence that a faith as intelligent and as submissive as Pascal's is still possible. None the less, it is instinctively felt that the great mass of men who possess the scientific temperament and training are apt to discard the supernatural element from religion; and that this may lead, not only to a rejection of modern miracles, but to a setting aside of the Incarnation and Ascension of Christ, of that perpetual miracle of the Real Presence, in which Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and the Greek Church believe, and of that other perpetual miracle of the communication of the Holy Ghost in certain solemn moments, or in certain sacerdotal functions, which no Christian Church—except the Unitarian body—has renounced or explained away. It may be, of course, that these fears will be dissipated hereafter, but they certainly exist at present, and seem not unwarranted. There is a story that an Ultramontane speaker in an Austrian Parliament addressed the House with the interrogation: "I suppose we all believe in the Church?" and was met with a shout from the left," "We believe in Darwin." What is apprehended is that the whole world may come to be divided in the same way, and that the disciples of Darwin—or of Darwin's successor—will be the more numerous.
A world without the belief in miracle, and without the belief in a life after death, for which life on earth is a preparation! Such a state of society has never been known yet, though the belief in a future life was not held with unwavering certainty in Hellenic and Roman times. It is not easy to realise all that a complete renunciation of these faiths would imply. It is customary to assume that belief in miracles is already held very guardedly by the great mass of educated Protestants. Almost all these suppose miracles in the ordinary acceptation of the term to have ceased with the Apostolic age. Nevertheless, almost every devout Protestant believes firmly that his own life has been so ordered beforehand for good, that every incident may subserve a moral end. Thomas a Kempis tells us in considering the difficult question of temptations to sin, that " divine wisdom and equity weigh the condition and merits of men, and pre-ordain everything so as to fit in with the salvation of the elect." Luther went even further than this, and declared that temptations were the spiritual discipline of the soul; quoting Archbishop Albert of Mainz for the thought commonly ascribed to himself, that the human heart is like millstones, which grind on themselves if they are not supplied with grist, as an instance that the soul needs struggle to take it out of isolation and keep it from feeding upon itself. Sometimes this doctrine has been so applied as to become trivial, and often so as to become extravagant. An old writer tells the story of a Puritan, who having declared that he should perish eternally as certainly as a glass he threw down was shattered, derived great comfort from observing that the glass lay unbroken on the ground. Mr. Keble suggests in very beautiful verse that the counsels of statesmen may be changed, and the march of armies suspended in order to facilitate the conversion of a single soul. It is probably correct to say that a sane Christianity still contents itself with the limits indicated by Thomas a Kempis. It does not conceive a world in which there are perpetual interpositions, but rather one which has been so exquisitely foreordered, that every event has its moral use and its appropriateness to the special life. There is no departure from the order of nature in the recovery from illness, or the escape from danger, that has often been the cause of a conversion; yet the religious mind, looking at the result, concludes not unnaturally, that Loyola's transformation on a sick bed was as divinely ordered as St. Paul's vision. Accordingly, as long as this belief in the moral government of the world as its supreme purpose is maintained, we may surely say that the belief in miracle survives, though the belief in violations of fixed natural laws may have become obsolete.
So again with the belief in prayer. We are so far from the times when Elisha saw the angels and chariots of fire compassing the city in which he lived to protect it, that such a faith would now appear a hallucination or an imposture. The belief in prayers against drought or rain or against pestilence, and the recourse to days of national humiliation, are dying out. Those who repeat prayers against war, if they do it as more than a mere formality, probably explain it to themselves as a solemn recalling by the nation of its duties to other communities. There is perhaps more real fervour in the prayers offered up for individuals: that the life of a sovereign, a great statesman, or, much more, of a near relation, may be preserved. The reason of the difference, however, lies only in our acuter perception of the uniformity of natural laws in certain cases. We understand that a prayer for rain means a reversal of climatic laws all over the world, and we see how irrational it is to ask that the order of the Universe shall be changed for the sake of a Scotch county, or of a pastoral district in Australia. As well might a Neapolitan Lazzarone pray that his face should be washed for him by the ministration of angels. The inhabitants of every country can modify the climate and enrich the soil if they will only use the intelligence given them at birth, and the Neapolitan may wash himself if he is inclined. On the other hand, the laws of disease are so little understood, and constitutions rally in such remarkable ways, that there seems less impropriety in supposing that Divine sympathy may now and again interpose in cases of this sort in answer to earnest prayer. It may be observed, however, that many of the most profoundly religious persons shrink from petitions of this kind as irreverent and unwise attempts to secure from God what He has already ordered better in another way. Sir Thomas More, who himself prayed earnestly for his daughter's recovery, is said to have regarded the birth of a half-witted son as the answer of an angry Heaven to his wife, who had longed ungovernably for a boy. "Thou hast wearied God with prayers for a man-child, and He has given thee one, who will be always a child." In this case we get a curious combination of the religious and reasoning faculties; a belief that effectual fervent prayer was potent, and could change the purpose of God, and the conviction that such a weapon ought not to be employed in a reckless and inconsiderate manner. In proportion as this temperate view has met with acceptance, prayer has ceased to formulate desires, and has come rather to be the expression of the soul's unreserve towards Him who is the last comfort of the comfortless; or it is the inarticulate cry of doubt or pain, "the retreat of the solitary upon the eternal solitude." I have heard Mr. Emerson speak in a lecture of a good man he had known who said that it seemed to him impossible not to be constantly praying, by which probably nothing more was meant than that a sense of being near to the Invisible Presence tempered every wish and animated every thought. Men of this stamp must always be rare, but there seems no reason why they should die out of society. The scientific habit of thought may reject belief in a sympathetic God as unproven and of no demonstrable utility, but cannot affect to regard it as mischievous or provably extravagant.
The belief in a future life, which seems almost instinctive, is yet one of those essential parts of Christianity which it is most difficult to establish with precision, or even to put forward convincingly. It was recommended in the first centuries of our era by the abject misery in which men and women lived. The cities and provinces burdened with debt; the nobles suspected at court, and tracked by informers; the peasantry mostly slaves at the mercy of their lord and of every government official; barbarians rushing in to destroy, or pestilence ravaging; it seemed as if the very perfection of mechanism in the central government made it all the more an inexorable fatality, crushing out hope and self-respect. Men so wretchedly circumstanced might well deem that there must be a future life to compensate for what was endured below, if they did not regard the whole drama of existence as some wild devil's extravaganza. To this feeling later on was added the perception that such an ultimate triumph of right in this life as Job and David believed in was in no wise to be demonstrated, and that if we looked forward to an exact apportionment for every one according to his deserts, we must believe in some final tribunal where "God at the end compensates, punishes." Circumstances have so completely changed that these arguments have lost much of their weight. Society is better ordered, and men are now happy or miserable in this life very much through their own character and conduct. Again, the enormous difficulties of realising a future state have come to be understood. The argument of Leibnitz that eternal life means the eternal development of character, good or evil, so that the good will always be growing better, the bad always declining upon lower depths, is so appalling to modern sensibility that to many it seems preferable to believe that we have our heaven and hell upon earth. Then again, science counting up the untold myriads of men and women who have passed away noiselessly, and considering how few even now lead a life very much higher than that of brutes, conceives it irrational to suppose that all will be raised again into a higher sphere of existence. There is also a revolt of morality from the doctrine of punishments and rewards. St. Teresa's fine sentiment that she did not fear hell, or hope for heaven, but loved God for himself alone, is the expression of a thought that has always existed vaguely among men, and that is coming to be more and more recognised as the true motive of action. Nevertheless, those who hold this belief, and who are perhaps purifying religion by holding it, are withdrawing a future life from its place in the moral government of the world. Their gaze, as it were, fixes itself upon the divine life and passion as they were on earth, and refuses to see the heavens opening above.
Now, it can hardly be doubted that these tendencies in modern thought—the tendency to reduce miracle to the recognition of a moral order in the world, the tendency to limit prayer to spiritual aspiration, and the tendency to regard a future life as nothing more than a fanciful and unimportant possibility—are all bound to lessen the influence of religion upon the masses. The traveller who goes into countries where the old faith still lingers in unabated vitality—into parts of the Tyrol, or still more into Russia—is conscious that he has passed into a different moral world. Its ethics, in the acceptation of modern thinkers, are probably worse than those of the civilised west, but it is pervaded with a sense, which the west has lost, of living partly in an unseen world, and with almost entire reference to a life beyond the grave. It can scarcely be doubted that civilisation is at present the winning force, and that while its admirable police will impose a stricter morality everywhere, the scientific spirit which it fosters will dissipate the larger part of traditional religion. It is perhaps correct to say that the religious tone of mind has always been seen at its highest advantage in countries which the secular spirit was already invading and conquering. The Catholicism of the French Jansenists, the Protestantism of Puritan times, furnish the most admirable instances of unalloyed Christianity that the world has seen, and their influence elevated the men who were neither Jansenists nor Puritans. Those who judge the religion of England at its best in the seventeenth century by the life of Nicholas Ferrar or of John Bunyan, and who turn to the records of Blaise and Jacqueline Pascal to appreciate the Jansenist, will find that the religious tone of Anglican, Nonconformist, and Catholic was practically indistinguishable. Those who wish to trace what was vulgar and dishonest in the professors of those days will find inimitable portraitures in the Tartufe of Molière, which was probably aimed at a mystic or a Jansenist, and in Hudibras, which was written by a man who had lived in a Puritan household. It is well to know that there was a bad side, and to remember that the worst men were habitually those who traded upon the success of religion; for the good is so admirable as to induce a regret that it was in the very nature of things ephemeral, and carrying in it the seeds of death.
The Puritan household which many of this generation can recall in its latter-day adumbration, was an institution that has a title to be commemorated. The men and women who grew up in a faith that was something more than enthusiasm or passive conviction were penetrated by a sense of the reality of divine law in a way that perhaps is never likely to be reproduced. Habitually abstemious in food, reserved in speech, methodical in act, and possessed with an awful sense of the obligation of physical purity, they carried a certain ungainly erectness into everyday life, and fell readily into line in any great crisis. To him who feels that he is "for ever in the Great Taskmaster's eye" nothing can be trivial, and so it came about that the Puritan approached his small duties with a seriousness that seemed to want grace and proportion; but that earnestness was the secret of a concentration of power, which, when it has been diverted into business, has made Puritans the most successful of speculators and organisers. When the Hebrew faith took possession of a soul that had the Hellenic sense of beauty, it gave the world Milton; when it informed a statesman and soldier of Roman unscrupulousness and ambition, it made Cromwell; and when it tempered the highest speculative originality, it produced a Pascal. The prevailing note in each of these great minds is austerity; and their intellectual counterparts in the modern world are apt to be discriminative and subtle and sympathetic and fibreless. Puritanism is no longer a force in art or letters or statesmanship; and the Puritan tradition of family life is dead, and cannot be revived. The results of that iron drill were obtained at a cost which none who passed through it can forget, or would submit to again, or could endure to see inflicted upon their children. The mother who almost doubted if it was not sin to love the babe that smiled up in her face; the children who spoke with bated breath and were trained to orderly composure on Sundays; the belief of young and old that they lived in a world whose amusements and thoughts were irreverent and grotesque by the side of life with its awful duties, even as laughter above a deathbed would be; the conception of marriage as indissoluble; the recoil from libertinage of thought or of moral tone as from shame and death, are all parts of a system that could only be maintained while the New Testament was believed in as something more than the best possible moral code,—as the actual word of God. Instead of this we have got a new family life, which is infinitely genial, and charming, and natural, which gives free vent to the feelings, and cares liberally for culture and advancement in life. Only the sense of obligation, of duty to God, of living forward into eternity has disappeared. When all is said, the man who orders his life as if it were to end with the grave, or as if his thoughts and works here would not follow him beyond the grave, can scarcely fail to live more in the present than the future. He may have wider perceptions and sympathies and enjoyments than the Puritan, but he will have less self-restraint and will. He will clutch with a fierce avidity at power or wealth, or at the pleasures which are purchased by the possession of power and wealth.
It is likely that this change will affect women even more than men. Hitherto in all countries, but in the Germanic above all, woman has been the moral element in households—the personification of duty and purity in family life. Probably, even now, there are very few men of over fifty who have not grown up believing in the women among whom they lived as devoutly as they believed in God. There might be vice in the highest or the lowest circles, but for men at large it was a presence outside of their homes. It may be the facts of society are still very much the same, but there is a change of tone. The reforms that are removing woman from the perpetual tutelage of husbands and parents are unavoidably constraining her to stand alone in many respects. She is more at liberty to choose her own husband, more free to refuse to marry, more able to shape out an independent career, and has come to possess nearly equal rights over property and over her children. At the same time the old idea that the woman's real function is to be wife and mother exists almost in full force; and the women who wish to compete with men in politics, in the professions, in trade, and to some extent in serious literature, still find that they are kept back by public opinion, though they v are no longer restrained by legal difficulties. The result seems to be a conflict of old and new desires. On the one hand are the natural instinct to use beauty and attractiveness in their congenial sphere of conquest, and the practical feeling that in this one domain the woman can draw greater prizes in the lottery of life than the man. In most cases the man who has risen to wealth or eminence can look back upon laborious years, and on times in which he despaired of achieving anything. But a girl of eighteen may become the wife of a duke, a millionaire, or the greatest statesman of the day, by the mere accident of meeting him at a ball, or sitting next him at dinner. Chances of this kind, though known and moderately frequent in all ages, were not numerous enough to demoralise the imaginations of any large number; they are now a perceptible cause of ambition and unrest. On the other hand, the various causes that are driving women to make homes for themselves while they have freed society from the worst feature of conventual life, and from the unattractive celibacy of women, who having failed to marry were supposed to have failed in their careers, are assimilating the thoughts and habits of women to the masculine type. The inquiry now often made why there should be a different law of morality for the two sexes could scarcely have been formulated as lately as a century ago; and it may be questioned if women are not likely to lose something rare and inappreciable if it comes to be recognised that there is no special ideal for wives and daughters. Human nature may probably be trusted to keep its own boundary lines; and the old trick of thought that regards fearlessness in word and act as the true virtue of the man, and sexual purity as that of the woman, will not easily be unlearned. Meanwhile, for the present at least, it seems as if there were an unsettlement of ideas that may lead for a generation or more to much ferment of thought and irregularity of aim and instability of character. The license of some notoriously depraved courts is never likely to be exceeded, or even reached. It is even probable, perhaps, that as women are more and more occupied with serious interests they will be less and less tempted to be frail. What it seems most reasonable to apprehend is, that the old instinctive virtue will be replaced by a calculating common sense, which may easily become a calculating compliance; and that while family life in general will be as inviolable as heretofore, it will lose the sense of religious sanction, and continue to exist only because it is felt to be warranted by a sane estimate of loss and gain.
If these changes ever come to pass, we shall get a world that is mostly secular in its tone, though with a minority who hold a spiritualised faith, and the family, as it loses its influence, will cease to transmit the tradition of a consecrated household life. It remains to be seen whether the new forces that are supplanting the Churches and the family can so elevate individual character as to give it a new reserve of strength in place of what it is losing. What the State does, and does admirably in its way, tends almost entirely to make its citizens more perfect parts of the political machine. Its school-training is bound to be more or less automatic or mechanical; the service in the ranks which it enforces will subdue the will even more than it develops the faculties; and if it organises labour, it is likely to do it on conditions of democratic equality that will maintain as far as possible a dead level among employees. The most that can be said is, that if aristocratic privilege is abolished, and the influence of wealth reduced to a minimum, society will attain to that ideal of the "career open to talents" which has been realised in some critical periods—as under Cromwell and the First Napoleon—with very brilliant results. The best observers of democratic society are, however, apt to accuse it of a jealousy that seems to belong to its very essence—the jealousy lest it should end in constituting an official aristocracy with excessive incomes and powers. It accordingly guards against this by, as far as may be, equalising salaries, distributing powers, and giving promotion by seniority, or by some rude form of rotation; such as the wholesale displacements that occur in America after every triumph of an Opposition. We know by the instances of England and Austria that the opposite principle of selection by fitness—meaning practically selection by favour—may work very badly. That statesmen of ardent patriotism and personal incorruptibility like Pitt and Lord Castlereagh should have allowed two such incompetent commanders as the Duke of York and Lord Chatham to direct great British armies, would be inexplicable if we assumed the consideration of fitness to have entered very much into their combinations. Abercromby, Cornwallis, and Sir John Moore were available when the Royal Duke was taken; Wellesley, Baird, and Hope when Lord Chatham was employed. The Ministers must have known that they were running a fearful risk; but they undoubtedly thought it impossible to pass over officers of high rank till they had been tried and had failed. Therefore it is not very wonderful if the great democracy of the United States acquiesces in a system that puts good and bad on a level in ordinary times, and if it trusts to itself to use extraordinary remedies in the day of danger. It is easier, however, to understand this deplorable system—bad even when the principle of summary changes is abolished—than to justify it as reasonably practical, or to regard it as anything but a danger to administration and to character. In the countries where promotion by merit is now practically unknown, respectable mediocrity and a tame discharge of routine duties have come to be the almost invariable notes of the junior men in the Civil Service. If, therefore, as seems probable, the State is continually extending its control over industry, and is taking men more and more into its pay, not only will the stimulus of competition, which has often perhaps been excessive, be removed throughout the services, but the standard of work in all departments is likely to be kept at so low a level that a great school of training for character will be lost. Neither will the State be quickened into emulation of its neighbours if, as seems probable, protective tariffs defend native industry against competition, and reduce interchange within the smallest possible limits.
There are two other ways in which it seems probable that the increased powers which are of necessity claimed by bodies politic will interfere with the free development, or at least with the free expression of religious and political thought. The right of free meeting has commonly been regarded by Englishmen as something like an inherent attribute of citizenship. Even in England, however, it has repeatedly been found necessary to restrain it. In 1795 and 1820 this was done by stringent and unpopular Acts of Parliament, against which public opinion pronounced decisively, and which were, in fact, intended for the moment's need. In 1843 a British Government of scrupulous moderation was compelled to forbid a monster meeting of Irishmen at the Hill of Tara. In 1848 London was filled with troops and special constables, because a monster meeting of Chartists was convened on Kennington Common. Since then there have been repeated occasions when the West End of London has been visited with panic or with riot, because crowds were being addressed in Hyde Park. Therefore, even in England, the right to hold large political meetings is beginning to be questioned or limited, and the right to organise religious processions has been severely abated. On the Continent large meetings in the open air have never had the indulgence of English practice accorded to them, and meetings in rooms are habitually watched by the police. The temptation for any strong party in the State to make a demonstration by showing that it is backed by imposing numbers must always be very great; and, at the same time, demonstrations of this kind may easily be the prelude of civil war. Moreover, politics and religion are intermixed. A large body of Catholic pilgrims may express its convictions in a way that is dangerous to .civil order; a procession of Orangemen may provoke a faction fight; and a parade of the Salvation Army is often the occasion of riot. It seems, therefore, to be highly probable that civil society everywhere will adopt a uniform practice, and will forbid large assemblages in the streets or in open spaces, except on occasions of general interest and specified by law. Now it can hardly be said that such a regulation would be any great restraint upon liberty; and yet it is impossible not to feel that it would diminish the influence of the emotional element in human nature. Processions and mass meetings have been instinctively adopted in every country and every age, because they worked upon the imaginations and strengthened convictions or communicated ideas by the contagion of sympathy. The impulse of great change has constantly been derived from demonstrations of this kind. Forbid them, and what administrations will gain in stability will be lost to all the causes that are in an actual minority.
Incomparably more important than even the right of holding public meetings has been the permission habitually accorded to refugees from one country to become naturalised in another. The right of asylum is perhaps more likely to be extended than withheld. The enthusiasts who make changes are, however, as a rule, not wealthy, and in the rare cases where a rich man is a reformer it is commonly difficult for him to transport his property, unless he has been making provision for the worst with almost unexampled caution. If we take some of the great emigrations, for conscience' sake, during the last three centuries, it is obvious that the Flemings, the French Huguenots, and the Palatines could not have settled in England and Ireland if they had not been allowed to work at the industries they were acquainted with. Similarly, if the Irish Catholics, who swarmed into France and Spain during part of the eighteenth century, had been denied everything but the right to be food for powder, the influx could never have assumed the vast proportions it did. Now there are many signs at present that the employment of aliens is getting to be regarded with disfavour all the world over by professional men and by artisans. Habitually, in the case of the learned professions, the State, influenced by native protectionists, professes to be alarmed lest unqualified persons should trade upon the credulity of the public, and declines to recognise, or only partially recognises, those who have not the hall-marks of its own degrees. The excuse is sometimes exceedingly plausible. Thus, for instance, the Medical Board in Victoria has refused to register a Chinese doctor with a diploma from a medical school in China on the ground that he had not studied anatomy, and the result is that, though the thousands of Chinamen in Victoria are not absolutely debarred the professional aid they naturally believe to be best, the Chinese practitioner cannot legally call himself a doctor, or recover fees. In France there has been a movement against allowing foreign artists to exhibit, and a strike against the employment of foreign models. More reasonably, the enlistment of aliens in the army or navy is getting everywhere to be more and more unusual. The teaching profession has been the constant asylum of exiles. In proportion as the State assumes the direction of this does it confine the service to those who have passed its own special tests, and at this moment an English teacher with the highest certificates cannot obtain the lowest classified post in Victoria unless he submits to a fresh examination, nor conversely can a Victorian in England. Louis Philippe at one period supported himself by teaching mathematics in a Swiss school. Scarcely any public institution would now receive an alien, especially one who, like the Duc de Chartres, was not possessed of a University degree, however competent he might be. Naturally the feeling which asserts itself so strongly among professional men is operative also among hand-workers. When labourers are imported, or emigrate out of one country into another, it is generally because they have a lower standard of comfort than the natives whom they will come in competition with, and are prepared to work for lower wages. It is urged against them with a good deal of justice, that they displace men who are better citizens and on a higher grade of civilisation than themselves, and also in many cases that they work cheaper because they do slop work. Accordingly the feeling against allowing foreigners to come over in any large numbers is getting to be strong in the Old World, is noticeable in Australia, and is perceptible as a tendency even in the United States. At the same time several States that once encouraged the immigration of foreigners for economical reasons, are now reversing their policy on the ground that only a homogeneous nationality can be safely administered. France is less a home than it was for Germans; Germany is driving out the Poles or forcing them to renounce their language; and Russia is taking very strong steps not only against the Jews, but even against the German colonists in the South, who were anciently invited over by Government agents, and favoured with grants of land.
Now, that nations themselves may lose largely under a system which forbids the infusion of foreign blood is more than probable. Russia could scarcely have emerged from barbarism or become a great power without the aid of men of the most various nationalities; and in England, even if we exclude the descendants of aliens, there is a noticeable list that includes men like the statesman Bentinck, the soldiers Schomburg and Ruvigny, the engineer Brunei, the philologist Max Müller, and the painter Alma Tadema. The greater loss, however, is likely to be on the side of individual liberty. Till lately the restless and energetic man who dissented from the faith or disapproved the government of his country has known that if he is driven into exile he may begin life again in a new country, not indeed without some loss, but without let or hindrance from law. Napoleon himself advised Auguste de Staël to take service in England when he refused, from filial piety, to accept an appointment in France. One of the roman triumvirs of 1849 earned an honourable living by teaching Italian in Oxford, and no less a man than Garibaldi was glad to take work for a time in a soap-boiling factory in New York. A future Saffi may find that the right to teach at Oxford is confined to Oxford graduates, and a future Garibaldi that he will have to take out his citizenship before he is allowed to do manual labour of any kind in a strange country; it may be even that to take out his citizenship will be as difficult in a good many parts of the world as it is in Switzerland. The inevitable result of all this must be to impose silence upon the men who are inclined to take up arms against abuses in politics or in the social system. The Liberal reformer under a despotism will know that if he escapes being shot or imprisoned he will be starved for want of employment when he is in exile. The man who finds himself ostracised by society, as Godwin and Shelley were, will have to change his name like Godwin, if he has not, like Shelley, private means to fall back upon, and the chance that an unpopular man can disguise himself under an alias in his own country is becoming appreciably less as the right to investigate every man's private surroundings is more and more conceded to the press. It is quite conceivable that while the laws of every civilised state become increasingly tolerant, the difficulty of changing a fatherland may compel all but the most reckless to refrain from criticising the government, the faith, or the social habits approved by their fellow- citizens. Nor, indeed, is it easy to see why England should accord the old privileges to aliens simply that the expression of thought in France and Germany may be free. Yet that fearlessness of speculation and speech is bound to die out when frank, even unguarded words are more or less certain to involve ruin to a man, and to those he holds dearest, is tolerably certain. Even reserve, even the reputation of thinking have been dangerous under some despotisms. The time may come when all who wish to be safe will render lip-service to the powers that be, and will school their very features into acquiescence, and when that arrives the capacity of feeling strongly will die out.
Happily, the secret force which has acted as a solvent of the old society is to a great extent independent of political combinations. The spirit of scientific inquiry is indeed likely to profit very much by many incidents of the new order. As education is diffused and becomes increasingly secular in its tone, the public that welcomes and can appreciate the results of science is likely to be enlarged. Even on the extreme assumption that State Socialism should discourage practical invention as unfavourable in its immediate results to the labourer, or should starve out inventors by virtually confiscating the proceeds of discovery, there would still be the great domain of abstract science, which is what the minds that chiefly influence progress are most interested about. When we consider how careless of gain the greatest men of the past have been—from Roger Bacon and Newton to Faraday and Brunei—or, in another department of thought, from Leibnitz and Pascal to Herbert Spencer and Littre, it seems that we need hardly apprehend that philosophy will cease to labour, even though the State, like the old French terrorists, should conceive that it has no need of chemists. On the other hand, there seem to be some strong reasons for expecting that science will do more for us in the future than she has attempted in the past. The first steps, that were the most difficult, have been made, and it looks as if nothing were now needed but to enter in and possess the promised land. In every department of thought there appears to be promise of infinite possibilities. The physiologist dreams of penetrating the mystery of life; the chemist of forming all possible natural combinations in his laboratory from the diamond to sugar; the engineer of extending his triumphs over space. Beyond and above all these there is the vague hope that science may succeed better than religion, either in lifting the veil of the unseen world, or in demonstrating that we need nothing but the seen. Let it be conceded that the fairyland in which our fathers lived has become impossible, and that constituted as we are we find it difficult to believe in anything where we cannot trace the sequence of cause and effect. Even so, a clearer insight into some fragment of the Divine order—something to assure us of eternal sympathy behind eternal power—may mean the bringing back of a faith which was once salutary, and which the world seems poorer for needing.
Unhappily, those who anticipate that science and faith may be reconciled, or that science will give us a new and better religion, seem a little to have underrated the difficulties that have to be overcome before either dream can be realised. It is possible, no doubt, to find theologians who think they can substitute belief in the benevolence of Divine law for belief in a sympathetic and personal God, and who are prepared to discard all that has constituted religion hitherto belief in miracles, belief in a life beyond the grave, belief in a God who cares for man so that He has put on humanity. It is possible also to find scientific men who assume that religion may be reduced to belief in a great First Cause and the practice of a few ethical principles recommended by long experience. It is doubtful whether even these views, though they converge, could ever meet. Science, with its God in the shape of a plausible hypothesis, and with its shifting lines of morality, could only signal across an impassable gulf to the faith that would regard its purified intuition as the one reality in the world. Outwardly the quietist, who will not pray or wish lest he should be asking of God something that has been better ordered already, is on the same plane as the scientific man, who believes that our acts and thoughts are the exact expression of our antecedents, and cannot be changed. Practically the one man is penetrated with a sense of Divine sympathy, and the other with belief in an order of abstract laws in which sympathy would be irrational and misplaced. Whatever befall the quietist, his obligation to support the burden of life cannot be affected, and his sense of absolute trust in God may even be deepened and purified as he is detached from earth. To the scientific man death by his own hands seems to be the natural relief from trouble, if he can once assure himself that the balance of probabilities is against his receiving what he deems desirable from life. It is needless to trace the infinite divagations into which even the morality sanctioned by science would stray from religious practice. We must either admit that two theories of religion are equally possible, and to appearance equally good, or we must be content to allow that the Stoic conception of a sublimated humanity, which is the counterfeit of religion that science would naturally adopt, is not to be called religion, though it is very beautiful and grand. Nevertheless it is probable that either system of thought gains in proportion as its teachers succeed in understanding one another. For Christianity it is a great gain to be gradually discarding fables that reduced it to the level of an ordinary mythology. For science the lesson that it does not satisfy every want, cannot teach everything, may be inappreciable.
Of the infinite possibilities of science it becomes those who are not within the sacred portals to speak diffidently. Though the dreams of an Erasmus Darwin or a Tschernischevski may still be far from accomplishment, what has actually been done is so great, and has now and then been so far beyond calculation, that it seems difficult to raise our hopes of practical discoveries too high. It is, however, in the loftiest results of science, its insight into law, that the mind has to look for its noblest satisfaction; and it is by showing itself to be inexhaustible that science must retain its ascendency. Now, it is surely not unreasonable to surmise that there are limitations in the nature of the universe which must circumscribe the achievements of speculative research. Every astronomer knows that there was only one secret of the universe to be discovered, and that when Newton told it to the world the supreme triumph of astronomy was achieved. Whether Darwin or some one else shall have disclosed the other great mystery of the generation of life, it is none the less certain that all future triumphs will be insignificant by the side of the first luminous hypothesis. Chemistry rests, when all abatements have been made, on the atomic theory, and even if future investigation enables us to forecast with absolute precision what the result of combinations hitherto unattempted will be, so that we can calculate in the study what is now worked out gropingly in the laboratory, that discovery would hardly eclipse the merit of Dalton's contribution to science. So it is in every department of research. Even the greatest men are little more than sagacious interpreters of thought and toil which others have expended obscurely. The discovery of a new metal, a new star, or a new species is now nothing to thrill us with wonder and awe. We know that it has been worked up to by former experiments or is the result of improved instruments, and is no more matter of wonder than that this year's best steamship should make a knot an hour more than was possible five years ago. Then again, not only is science ceasing to be a prophet, but in virtue of her very triumphs, precisely because her thoughts are passing into the life-blood of the world, is she losing visible influence as a liberal education. It is coming to be matter of history that she has taught us to substitute law for caprice in our conceptions of the Divine will; that she has relegated the belief in secondary causes and the belief in arbitrary interpositions of the First Cause to the lumber-room of fable; that she has given us a broader and intenser view of nature, while she has left us the fairyland of the world's childhood for an appreciable treasure. Other harvests have now been gathered in. The prophet and leader is rapidly becoming a handmaid. Her possibilities can be pretty accurately summed up or forecast in a cyclopaedia; and having delivered herself of her one imperishable protest against, popular theology, she has no other great moral truth to declare.
If, however, science fails us, we shall be impoverished in that very region of intellectual toil from which alone we have a right to expect exceptional results. Science for many years past has appeared to press the higher imagination into her service, or at least fancy and imagination have seemed to be less rich than they were in their own special department—that of poetry. Nature, as the old logicians used to say, does nothing at a bound; and there has accordingly been a noticeable revival of poetry during the early period of the present century, such as might tempt an optimist to believe that the world had been endowed with a second youth. Goethe, Schiller, and Heine in Germany; Victor Hugo and De Musset in France; Leopardi in Italy; Lermontoff and Puschkin in Russia; and Tegner in Sweden, had for contemporaries in England a marvellous phalanx beginning with Wordsworth, Byron, and Shelley, and ending with Browning and Tennyson. Even if there were a silent fifty years after the last of these great men had produced really great work, it would be rash to infer that the creative faculty had said its last word. Nevertheless, looking back upon the past and counting up what we have lost, it is impossible to feel very sanguine as to the future. Certain kinds of poetry have become impossible; certain others are rapidly being exhausted. Can any one conceive that an epic poem could be written in this age? The epic turned upon the fortunes of society—the dramatic incidents of war or travel—in days when the individual could really incline the balance of a battle or an adventure by his own prowess. Modern war is a series of scientific problems, in which masses are manoeuvred and the individual hardly emerges; modern travel, though it may lead us now and again into a wonderland of man- apes or of Herodotean dwarfs, or of deserted cities and Titanic ruins, tells its tale best in prose, and is bound to tell much that cannot be given in a few picturesque strokes. The pastoral is doomed. So far as it had any reality, it was based on contrasts that have ceased to be sharp and interesting, or on a feeling for country life that is now more naturally expressed in a subjective form, such as Wordsworth has employed. The satire as Horace and Juvenal, Dryden, Boileau, and Pope fashioned it has fallen into comparative disuse, and the temper of modern times would scarcely endure the religious vehemence of Juvenal or the vitriolic epigrams of Dryden and Pope. The poetical drama, except in France, has given us nothing for two centuries but pieces for the closet, and in France only Victor Hugo has produced anything for the stage that deserves to be read for its intrinsic worth. Putting aside Shakespeare, whose powers were so godlike and exceptional that it seems unreasonable to draw any argument from them, we may surely say that there are at least six poets of the Elizabethan era, the meanest of whom showed more workmanlike conception of what was needed for dramatic representation of effective plot and situations than is to be found in Shelley, Byron, Browning, and Swinburne, though the least of these is superior in poetic feeling and taste to Beaumont, Webster, and Ford, and to Marlowe in all but two or three passages. There are, in fact, only two classes of poetry in which modern craftsmen have vindicated themselves. One of these is the epic of society of which Don Juan is the best instance for light sarcastic workmanship, and Childe Harold the most perfect for serious style. In each of these great poems, however, though social subjects are more or less touched upon, the treatment is more purely subjective—more concerned with individual characteristics and feelings—than as they would have been rendered by an old artist handling them. In this particular the story of society, as distinguished from the story of national life, is true to the spirit of its age. Where modern poetry has really discovered a new world, and is unapproachable, has been in its lyrical reproduction of moods and passions. The first part of Faust, perhaps altogether the most consummate poem of the last hundred years, derives its singular perfection from the blending of three distinct forms of art in a very exquisite form. There is an epical thought in the background of the piece. The idealist destroying his own past that he may build it up anew reflects the genius of the times when the French Revolution was in the air. Only it was not natural to the poet to conceive an epical movement in an epical form. Then again, there is a dramatic action in the scene where Faust—a free agent but caught in the devil's meshes—is bringing the Furies into a quiet home. Still, the most effective parts of the so-called drama are the passages of self-questioning monologue or declamation and the purely lyrical pieces. Of course, dramatic and lyrical poetry both deal with the expression of human feeling, and the boundary line between them is often invisible. Still, it is probably correct to say that the drama takes for its principle of organic structure the action of men and women upon one another, while the lyrical poem expresses the feelings of men and women in themselves. Unavoidably, therefore, the dramatist is more popular in his treatment and the lyrical poet more subtle. Othello, thinking out his causes and motives of jealousy as Browning would have depicted him, would have expressed himself in very different words from those which Iago's incisive prompting draws from him.
Now the lyrical work of the present century would seem to be distinctly in advance of any work of that exact kind done heretofore. In the ode, the battle-song, the love-song, and the drinking-song, the poets of the past cannot easily be beaten. These all are lighted up by the glint of social life. On the other hand, if we take the form of poem that hints rather than develops a thought, but hints what it means with precision, and suggests what it would be tedious to express—that form in which Goethe would have been unrivalled if Heine had not come after him,—we find that the passion, the national feeling, the religious doubt, the social cynicism of the present age have been expressed in infinite variety with marvellous wealth of feeling. Discriminate the substance from the form, and we shall see that Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso professedly the expression of individual temperament are yet thronged with pictures of life and its works; while dramas like Manfred, Luria, or Erechtheus are little more than splendid collections of passages reflecting the subjective moods of the poet. That great poets who were essentially lyrical should constantly have preferred to tell a story in narrative or dramatic form may be ascribed partly to the influence of old association, and partly to the greater variety which is offered by modes of verse that are not in their essence limited to a few stanzas. Even here, however, it may be remarked, that no one, as a rule, tells an old story again without changing its model for the worse if he deviates from the original. The writers of the Morte d'Arthur were not craftsmen of the highest order, though they understood how to diversify the rather monotonous tale of chivalrous adventure, and were sometimes capable of fine touches. They possessed, however, an instinct of congruity which kept them from anachronisms of manner and anomalies of ethical feeling. They recoiled from the naked story of Geraint and Enid as inappropriate to knightly times; they conceived Vivien as an overfond woman, not as a fin-de-siècle lorette craving for notoriety; and they never dreamed of bringing Arthur to preach morality to the penitent woman who lay before him in tears.
There is perhaps another reason besides a growing failure in the capacity to conceive or work out dramatic situations why the drama in its old form has ceased to be possible, except as a trick or sleight of the imagination. If a change in social relations has made the epic impossible by dwarfing the immediate agency of the individual, a change in manners has robbed the drama of a great deal of its effect. The carnage in Othello, though awful and pitiful even to men of that day, was not improbable. The husband had the notorious right to kill his wife if she were taken in flagrant guilt, and a Southern husband might be assumed to do a little more. Single combat was so frequent and serious that, of authors contemporary with Shakespeare, Ben Jonson had killed two men, and Marlowe was himself killed in a brawl. Jealousy may be as strong a passion now as then; it is said to have transformed the whole nature of one of the noblest writers in France; but it would not in the socially- elevated class lead to prompt and undisguised murder. Take, again, the drama of filial ingratitude. A great French author has treated again the subject of Lear in the most powerful of his works; and the modern Lear is nothing more than a man whom his daughters are ashamed of, having themselves married into a different sphere, and who delights in making unselfish sacrifices for their pleasure. Neither would the tone of modern manners allow the father, who had divested himself of estates and who was repaid with ingratitude, to complain as vociferously as Lear does. The world everywhere is more orderly and reticent than it was, and less suited to theatrical effects. No doubt it is still possible to contrive picturesque situations by choosing topics from ancient history, or from political conspiracies in half-civilised countries, or by descending to life among the criminal classes, or on their fringe. In all these cases, however, the mind of the reader is generally unfamiliar with the order of thought that makes such transgressions of law possible, and in the scenes from actual but low life is apt to be more disgusted by the vulgarity of the surroundings than moved to pity or terror by the tragical circumstances of the tale told.
There is, however, another reason, which is perhaps tending to make the drama less possible than it was, and the reason is one which tells, in a less degree, against all poetry. Human nature, various as it is, is only capable after all of a certain number of emotions and acts, and these as the topics of an incessant literature are bound after a time to be exhausted. We may say with absolute certainty that certain subjects are never to be taken again. The tale of Troy, the wanderings of Odysseus, the vision of Heaven and Hell, as Dante saw it, the theme of Paradise Lost, and the story of Faust are familiar instances. Less certainly, we may say that wherever a great dramatist, like Shakespeare or Molière, has left a masterpiece of successful delineation of character, artists will be slow to hazard rivalry and the world to tolerate it. Take, for instance, Othello. Such a subject as jealousy cannot, of course, be renounced simply because Shakespeare has treated it, and Webster in Love's Sacrifice has given us an innocent wife, a perfidious accuser, and a husband stirred to deadly revenge; but Webster, though it probably did not occur to him that there might be some irreverence in counterfeiting Othello, was yet careful, from the different bent of his genius or to avoid the charge of plagiarism, that his conception should be essentially diverse. His husband is no Moor with a sense of incongruity about his marriage; his wife has broken no filial vow, and though she is chaste in body has strayed in thought; and the artificer of ruin is not a man with a grudge against the husband, but a courtier wishing to gain influence. Take again the religious hypocrite as limned in Tartufe. Our old literature abounds in caustic satire of the canting Puritan—from Jonson's Zeal-of-the-Land-Busy to Howard's Committee-Men. Nowhere, however, is the sketch so full and particular, and for the world at large—even the English world—it may safely be said that Tartufe is a living original, whom it would be difficult to displace. Now it is in the nature of things that the strongest types and -the best adapted for stage purposes should gradually be used up. Effective adaptations of an old subject may still be possible; but it is not writers of the highest capacity who will attempt them, and the reading world, which remembers what has been done before, will never accord more than a secondary recognition to the adaptation. It is not the least merit of Sheridan that he thoroughly understood this, and made his Joseph Surface an original by endowing him with the platitudes of social morality, and suppressing all reference to the religion that Tartufe desecrates. Precisely, however, because these types have been so inimitably sketched is the man who would tread in the same path uncomfortably circumscribed.
Now if there are limits to the conception of human characters, into the making up of which so many elements and motives enter, much more must there be a limit to the expression of feeling and emotion. In Hamlet or Beatrice or Macbeth we pass from one phase of thought to another, and filial sentiment or noble indignation is played off against speculative philosophy, or the woman is shown in sunshine or in storm, or the irresolute man capable of guilt is contrasted with the criminal seared by the enjoyment of power. But the single mood of thought, expressed even in its most various inflections, does not admit of very wide treatment. Browning is not easily surpassed for analysis of motive in thoughtful men; but Browning wrote more at length when he developed a character in dramatic form—in A Blot in the 'Scutcheon or A Soul's Tragedy—than when he made his subject soliloquise, as in Andrea del Sarto and Cleon and Bishop Blougram's Apology, and it is noticeable that even in these he conceives an imaginary opponent, in order to bring out his thought with greater amplitude. If we turn to Heine, who was more supremely artistic than Browning, we find that he can commonly put the suggestion of sentiment or the touch of observation he desires to express into a dozen or twenty lines. Perhaps it may be added that concision in thought—the power to give the greatest effect with the fewest strokes—is the surest passport to immortality. At any rate, when we consider that the drinking-song and the Cotyttian lyric are now becoming obsolete, that there is presumably less strong passion in the world, and that what there is, is more reticent, that the greatest problems of thought have been hackneyed and made commonplace by discussion, and that a certain trick of workmanlike style is much more generally diffused than it was, it seems difficult to predict that the future of the modern lyric will be as bright as its past. It appears possible to imagine a not very distant time when the student will recoil from every new variation in worse verse of the old themes, as a lover of music closes his ear against familiar melodies ground out on a barrel-organ, and when men gifted with the power to feel and write will be paralysed if they attempt earnest work with the recollection that almost this exact thing has been done before, and has passed into household words or speech.
To some it may seem that the novel, which has been a very potent instrument in supplanting the drama, is never likely to die out, and may in a satisfactory measure take the place of poetry. No one can question that a great amount of very high ability has been spent upon the novel during the present century. Scott and George Eliot, Dickens and Thackeray, Hawthorne and Manzoni, Balzac and Charles de Bernard are only a few in a host of distinguished names. Tried by a rough and popular but fairly good test, these writers have all created types that the world has agreed to accept as very masterly. Scott, though there are signs that he is being forgotten, popularised a conception of Scotch character in its chivalrous capabilities and homely work for which his countrymen owe him a deep debt of gratitude. No other writer has done so much to invest the life of a small community with imperishable interest. Of the other writers mentioned, one George Eliot has been almost Shakespearean in the power of putting life into every touch; while Dickens, Thackeray, Balzac, and Manzoni, working more elaborately and at length, have made characters such as Pecksniff and Becky Sharp, Le Pere Goriot and Don Abbondio, appreciable additions to the world's repertory of dramatic memories. Of Hawthorne it may safely be said that his idealism was poetical in a very high degree, and yet that one can hardly imagine it expressed intelligibly in verse. Nevertheless, when all is said it is difficult to conceive the novel taking the place for a new society which poetry has filled for the elder world. If we take the most perfect prose ever written and contrast, let us say, the last chapters of the Agricola with the death of Marcellus, Burke's lament on the loss of his son with Milton's sonnet upon his blindness, or Burke's description of the ravage of the Carnatic with Milton's sonnet on the Vaudois, or if we compare De Quincey and Ruskin at their best with Shelley and Keats, we shall surely find that the great poem, haunts the memory more certainly than the majestic prose. Neither is this merely for the reason which first suggested verse, because metre and rhythm and alliteration and rhyme are aids to remembrance, but because the limitations poetry exacts are apt to give it concision and simplicity of outline, while its very nature allows it to run riot in ideas and imagery. Now, these reasons will always make the poetical form where it is appropriate more durable and less easy to recast than prose, and it seems more likely that Scott should be superseded than that Homer or Dante should be rewritten. In one way this is to the advantage of the world, which may count upon a perennial supply of novels; but in proportion as it is appreciated will it dishearten the best novel-writers with their work, or induce them to essay other fields of literary enterprise.
While it seems unavoidable that science should come to appear less and less a revelation from God, and that poetry should degenerate into mere literary bric-a-brac, such as the composition of rondels and triolets now is, there are two departments of thought in which it would seem that the human mind may look for compensation—history and criticism. That history will ever be brought to such perfection that we shall be able to forecast the future in more than a very general way is perhaps only a dream. That it may reconstruct the past in a manner that was not even hoped for a century ago seems indisputable. We are getting to understand the constitution of primitive societies by studying primitive man as we still have him in savage communities; we are beginning to comprehend the genesis of agrarian laws, and of laws regulating property of all kinds, as each country develops a school of scientific jurists. When we consider w T hat Gibbon did without the aid of critical editions, with some sources of knowledge sealed to him, and before comparative philology existed, for times of which our records are lamentably imperfect, it seems difficult to set limits to what another Gibbon might achieve under more favourable conditions. Even for English history the work of preparation has only been begun. Were the whole of our public records printed, indexed, and digested, as a small portion has been, the whole history of families, of property, and of administration in England might be given with very few gaps for something like seven hundred years. A book like De Tocqueville's Ancien Regime, which forced highly educated men absolutely to recast their notions of a period of history only distant by two generations, is probably still possible for every country in every century of its existence. Now, it may be admitted of Gibbon and of De Tocqueville that, with the instinct of genius, they took two of the greatest subjects available, and, like Newton and Darwin, discovered worlds which are now mapped out and familiar. The Englishman was the first to reconstruct the Roman Empire in a way that men with ordinary political insight might apprehend—the first and perhaps the only one in England to write the true history of the Christian Church. De Tocqueville's work, less colossal in scope but scarcely less astonishing, was to show that what men regarded as an outburst of unexpected forces was only a violent acceleration of orderly change. Still, it may be fairly said that both Gibbon and De Tocqueville have rather opened up new regions to the exploration of others than done anything so absolutely that it cannot be attempted again. Gibbon, to take a single familiar instance, made the first part of Finlay's Greece, if not possible, at least better than it could otherwise have been. From Lavergne to Taine and Stephens every succeeding writer on the French Revolution has begun very much where De Tocqueville left off, and has started from the points he has given to make new and fruitful investigations. Considering the vast fields in the past that remained unattempted, that fresh domains are being added in every generation, that the subject-matter is as wide as human nature in all time, and that nothing is so small as to be despised, nothing so great as to be left unessayed by the historian, it may surely be anticipated that history is bound to occupy more and more thought, and to be more clearly and fully understood as time goes on.
The critical faculty, so far as it applies to reasoning, is almost certain to be stronger in an advanced than in a young society, the only apparent exception being when the young society is one of singular acuteness and the old society stagnant for the time. It seems idle to discuss the importance of scientific criticism. It is the orderly faculty that is gradually evolving a new world out of chaos; comparative philology in the place of happy or unhappy guesses by good or bad linguists; history in the place of chronicles; and the basis of a positive belief in the place of old cosmogonies or traditions of miracle. Probably few of this generation can appreciate the incalculable debt which even men of this generation have owed to the critic. Professor Agassiz, whom many still living can remember with affection and reverence, was brought up under teachers who held that God had scattered fossils about the world as a test of faith; and an Oxford teacher of the highest local repute at least thirty years later published his belief that the typical vertebra—a column with lateral processes—was multiplied all over the world as a proof of the Crucifixion. A little later an Oxford divine, the accredited head of a great party in the Church, was consulting with an Oxford anatomist to know if it was not possible to point to a whale that might have swallowed Jonah. Now, it is of course demonstrable that a great deal which is false may be believed without substantial injury to the reasoning powers or faith. Machiavel based a work of acute political philosophy on ten books of Livy, which are a repertory of fable, and Sir Matthew Hale combined very sound judgment as a lawyer, and Sir Thomas Browne a rather rational religion with belief in witchcraft. What we have to consider, however, is first whether men like Machiavel would not have been incomparably more useful to society if they had started from the standpoint of Niebuhr and Maine, and next whether for the mass of men such a belief as that in witchcraft, which was harmful even to Hale, is not inexpressibly degrading and fruitful of bad practice. It must be borne in mind also that scientific criticism is very often much more than a mere negation. It is sometimes from the necessity of the case reconstructive, and it is commonly strongest when it supplies something in place of what it takes away. Darwin might have contented himself with showing the difficulties that beset all existing theories of the origin of species, and in that case his work, however valuable, would have been purely negative. As a fact, the mere process of detecting difficulties led him to what he thought an easier solution of the life of the universe, and his theory, true or false, has served to stimulate inquiry, and has at least, we may perhaps say, given a convenient halting-place for speculation. On the whole, whether we regard its positive results or the masculine tone of thought which it stimulates, the spirit of critical analysis in the domain of positive science seems to be that from which we have most to hope in coming centuries.
The criticism of taste is another matter. That there is an absolute canon of beauty seems hardly questionable when we consider that at a distance of more than two thousand years we are still recognising the transcendent excellence of the best Greek artists in style and marble. On the other hand, that any age can consider itself possessed of a true judgment seems a little doubtful when we- bear in mind how constantly opinions have varied upon subjects where there ought to be very little difference. There was probably no man of his day better qualified to write sound criticism on the drama as he knew it than Dryden. Dryden tells us that he loved Shakespeare, and he says a great deal about Shakespeare that shows an appreciation unusual for those times, but he confesses that he admired Ben Jonson more, and thought Beaumont and Fletcher superior for the construction of plots, for natural dialogue, for pathos, and for gaiety. Even this might pass, but before he died Dry den declared Congreve to be the equal of Shakespeare. A century later we find Dr. Johnson praising Shakespeare by comparing him with Rowe, and remarking that he had not perhaps produced "one play which if it were now exhibited as the work of a contemporary writer would be heard to the conclusion." Rowe's best piece is an adaptation of Massinger, and if it were true that the audiences which thronged the London theatres to see Shakespeare's plays cared more for Garrick's acting than for the poet, it is certainly proof, as we should esteem it, that the standard of criticism may decline at times. The simple fact seems to be that Shakespeare, though always popular after a fashion, was above the level of his own times; that he survived on the stage because he was less dependent on tricks of style and modes of society than his contemporaries; that Voltaire by his various notices and Garrick by his acting are responsible for a good deal of the dramatist's popularity in the eighteenth century; and that Coleridge and Hazlitt are the first English critics who did him real justice. It is fortunate for the world that Athenian taste was more discriminative of its great poets.
In spite, however, of Lord Beaconsfield's aphorism that "critics are writers who have failed," the fact probably is that literary criticism more often errs by indiscriminate praise than by imperfect recognition. Dryden's panegyric on Congreve is an instance in point, and though we may assume that it was a little coloured by personal friendship, praise so deliberately given in his noblest style by a critic with a reputation to support must be regarded as on the whole a genuine opinion. No one now doubts either that Congreve was very clever or that he is not one of the immortals. Dr. Johnson's Lives of the Poets represent an extremely high average of the work done in England during the eighteenth century. Macaulay's limitation that the critic "was undoubtedly an excellent judge of compositions fashioned on his own principles," must be qualified by the recollection that Johnson's principles were substantially those of the age. Now, that Johnson would have put Cowley on a level with Shakespeare or Milton if he had been asked the question, may fairly be doubted, but his praise of the small man is as liberal as what he awards the great, and more appreciative, and he quotes approvingly a sentiment ascribed to Milton, that Spenser, Shakespeare, and Cowley were the three greatest English poets. His praise of Pope's Iliad as "the noblest version of poetry which the world has ever seen," will appear strong to those who remember Spenser's Ruins of Rome, Fairfax's Tasso, and Dryden's Vergil and Juvenal, but is reasonable by the side of the eulogy on Savage, a deservedly forgotten poetaster, who is praised so that a foreigner reading the two lives would rank him above Gray. It may be admitted that Dr. Johnson was a man of strong prejudices. What, however, are we to say to Dr. Matthew Arnold, a modern critic of feeling, of knowledge, and it may even be said of genius, who has extolled Joubert and De Sénancour, men infinitely below his own standard, as if they were great writers? Must we not assume that personal feeling and peculiarities of temperament enter into the criticism of taste to such an extent that no single judgment can be accepted except as the argument of an advocate? May we not also say that though it is always possible to distinguish excellence, it is not always easy to define proportions while a work is yet new? Of two books that deservedly achieved an immediate and great success—Buckle's History of Civilisation and Maine's Ancient Law—Buckle's was the greatest triumph at the moment and Maine's has been incomparably the more enduring. Again, the critic of style is perhaps peculiarly liable to be overawed by a great reputation. Where the scientific controversialist can advance observation and experiment in proof of his censure, the critic of taste can do little more than assert a damnatory opinion. At this distance of time few would dispute that George Eliot's works after Middlemarch exhibit distinct and lamentable falling off in power, but Daniel Deronda at least was as vociferously praised as the author's best work had been. Probably only two or three writers in a generation attain such an eminence that criticism is suspended in presence of their works, but these two or three are the very ones who have most influence in moulding a generation, and in whose regard the verdict of a sane judgment is most desirable.
On the whole, it seems difficult to suppose that the criticism of taste will be more discriminative, more independent of contemporary fashion, or more original and suggestive than the criticism of the last century has been. Moreover, if, as this argument has attempted to prove, there is likely to be a general decline in the poetic faculty, criticism will have to occupy itself with worse material, for contemporary writers are after all those with whom the age is bound to be most conversant. Whether men of scholarly taste are even likely to hold their ground as society becomes more distinctly industrial in its tone, and if means are taken to prevent the transmission of easy fortunes, may be fairly doubted; but already the men who are conversant with our old literature are comparatively rare, and the scholars who can appreciate an old classic—Sophocles, Catullus, or Dante—are too few to make any impression on thought. As classical studies are gradually eliminated from all but a few schools, they will become rarer still. In the English colonies I have known, the tendency is to tolerate University training as a necessity for professional men, but to regard primary school education, or something only a little above it, as sufficient for all the needs of practical men and men of the world. Indeed, high schools in Australia seem to be maintained chiefly because some people like their children to have the distinction of a rather costly training, because a few others intend to send their sons and daughters into professions, and because a good many find it convenient to keep their children of a certain age away from home during the day. Now, the primary school Reader of commerce and of educational use has been brought to very great perfection by different editors, and contains a fair sample of what children of thirteen or fourteen will be likely to appreciate or ought to understand. It is giving scores of thousands who would have learned nothing under the old regime a knowledge of some good prose and verse, and is educating many whose mental food would otherwise have been Watts and Tupper and Robert Montgomery to an understanding of Campbell and Macaulay and Longfellow. For its special purpose the best work of this kind can hardly be improved upon. Still, there can be little doubt that selections of this kind are coming to be thought all-sufficient, and are displacing the higher English classics, from Shakespeare to Wordsworth, so that these are less and less studied. The probabilities are that two generations hence it will be rare in any civilised country to find an adult who cannot read or write, or who has not a tincture of letters derived from school manuals and completed by newspapers; but that it will be rarer still to find even a wealthy man who knows the classics as Fox knew them, or who is as conversant with the literature of his own land as Canning and Peel were.
It may be argued with some plausibility, that although works of the higher imagination will perhaps cease to be produced, as the field is exhausted, and as the faculty of subtle criticism dies out among the learned and the multitude, the mind will be able to recover in prose even more than it has lost in poetry. It has been assumed that history will take a wider range than ever; it may be supposed that oratory will become more and more an art, as States governed by Parliaments give more and more advantage to fluent speech. Beyond this the example of Mill has shown how much even political economy may be recommended by a faultless setting; and it may be safely said, that no subject however abstruse—in metaphysics or in natural science—is incapable of being enhanced by style. Plato has embalmed discussions of great subtlety and of difficult argument in prose, which the world will not consent to forget; and Buffon produced a voluminous work on natural history, which made the tour of the world, and was known by repute or by fragments in the salon and in the cottage. Probably the instantaneous success of Mr. Darwin's Origin of Species was due very much to the admirable simplicity and sustained interest of the narrative, which even the general public could follow sufficiently to understand. In connection with this it must be remembered that style after all can only be dignified or effective if it expresses dignified or effective thought. The decay of poetry has been assumed to be due to the fact that topics are being exhausted, and that the less varied and emotional life we are approaching will not lend itself to energy and colour in description. Unhappily, very much the same may be said of science. Even if the epoch of great discoveries is not exhausted, the new results are almost certain to be less simple, less sensational, more painfully approached by long processes of inquiry, less easy of comprehension to the outside world than the first revelations of astronomy and geology have been. Goethe has remarked that the beginnings of a science are always its most attractive part. The luminous conception, the broad outlines, the strong contrasts of colouring can be indicated from the first; but as inquiry and research proceed, abatements and modifications of the central theory have to be considered, and the attention is wearied with detail The man of encyclopaedic knowledge is being supplanted by the specialist, and the specialist is constantly finding that he cannot narrow his work too much. Darwin from his wonderful powers was capable of both kinds of work; but we may safely say that his monograph on earthworms, though part of a broad theory, would never have stimulated thought as the Origin of Species did. It seems probable, at least, that the Buffon and Darwin of the past will be replaced by a cohort of skilful investigators, each taking for the work of his life an exhaustive inquiry into a single species of Scarabœus or Bakterion. What happens in physical science will have its counterpart in scientific history. The successors of Gibbon, Mr. Finlay, and Mr. Bury, are inevitably less capable of giving pictorial effect to their narrative, because it is more circumstantial and minute. The mere hesitations of a man balancing evidence are against effect in style; and as the scientific spirit takes nothing on trust, it would not allow even a Gibbon in the present day to present his conclusions more or less positively in a flowing narrative.
The experience of free assemblies during the present century does not seem to sanction the hope that there is a great future for oratory. The very marked tendency has been to substitute what is known as debating for the classical form of speech. In other words, appeals to the feelings are very little valued, and statements of fact and the clear exposition of argument very much. It is difficult to say whether much has really been lost by this transformation. The reports of speeches from the best times of the British House of Commons appear to show that Lord Chatham ranted in very overflown language, that Sheridan was chiefly regarded as an exhibition of fireworks, and Burke hardly listened to at all; and that Fox and Pitt were very much speakers of the modern school. On the other hand, there is some reason to suppose that Sheridan's most remarkable effort—the Begum speech—has been so mutilated in the printed version as to be unrecognisable; and the chances are that this applies in great measure to Lord Chatham. Taking the modern oratory in its best form—a clear business-like argument, relieved by pathetic touches or appeals to generous feeling—it may be admitted to be a measurable force. It has been said that no speech ever changed a vote; but even if this be true of . Parliament, there remains the fact that some speeches have powerfully influenced national feeling, and that a party is always the weaker for being without orators. Still there are two strong reasons why we may expect a gradual and growing change towards a lower level of eloquence. One is that the art of public speaking is much more generally practised than it was, and that it is difficult for any one with the limitations imposed by the modern preference for debating to tower head and shoulders above the mob of gentlemen who spout with ease. The other is that the great common-places of oratory are even more easily exhausted than those of poetry. Patrick Henry carried a House of Assembly with him by asking if they who had cowed the British lion were to be afraid of its whelps. So hackneyed an allusion as to the British lion would now only provoke ridicule. We can hardly doubt that allusions to Marathon and Salamis, though still common, were becoming a joke in the time of Aristophanes. That Demosthenes was able to thrill a judicial assembly with them again testifies to his genius, but does not prove that smaller men could have succeeded by playing upon the same thought.
On the whole, it seems probable, that the best work of men able to write good prose will go even more than it already does into the form of general literature—reviews and newspaper articles. Given a much larger reading public than at present—and State schools are bound to provide this,—and a much lower general level of acquirement and taste than the educated classes of the world have possessed for the last century, it seems inevitable that hand-to-mouth work should meet the essential needs of the generation. No one who considers the admirable results achieved by modern leader-writers and correspondents can doubt that a great deal of supremely good literary power is actually used up in this manner. A hundred years ago an Englishman wanting to be informed about the state of the Continent would have found much better material in Clarke's Travels in Russia, Poland, and Scandinavia; in Moore's Travels in France and Germany; in Beckford's Letters from Spain; and in Brydone's Letters from Sicily, than the Times or the Courier would have given him. At present the current statistics of any Continental country are best learned from a gazetteer or a handbook, and its ephemeral politics or excitement from the special correspondent of any great paper. The old-fashioned traveller has to explore some provincial district, like the Carpathians or Bosnia, or to give information not easily obtained about some interesting stratum of society, if he would attract readers. Books of travel are still numerous; but the traveller only makes a reputation when he opens up a field which the correspondent has not attempted; when he is a Burton, a Vambery, or a Stanley. It may be a century or more before the world at large is Europeanised, and before all its countries are brought under pretty much the same conditions, so that local dialects, costumes, and customs will have disappeared; but every change in this direction is increasing the capacity of the daily press to deal adequately with what the public cares to know. This is perhaps the least noticed instance of the way in which the press supplies a want anciently catered for in a less ephemeral manner; but of course it has supplanted governments for the ascertainment and propagation of authentic news; and its statistical summaries are practically what the commercial world goes by. All this is so completely within the domain of a newspaper that it seems impossible to regret it, or even cavil at it. That significant or interesting facts should be put freshly before the notice of all is bound to be an important factor in progress. It must be remembered, however, that it is not only new facts which are best disseminated through the newspaper or the magazine. Journalism is the most efficient, if not the only real medium through which new thoughts pass into circulation. So popular a measure as Free Trade might perhaps have been carried anyhow, but was carried ten years sooner than it would have been, because the press gave opportunities for discussing it freely. So abstruse an idea as Hare's, of the representation of minorities, would probably be as forgotten by this time as Harrington's theories, if the press had not from time to time revived it for controversy or advocacy. A thinker, like Hobbes or Harrington, would have gained little in immediate notoriety by writing for the Mercury of the day; and would have lost everything in permanent consideration. At present, there is no man contemplating any immediate reform, who may not reasonably balance in his own mind whether he will not exert more influence through a newspaper with a large or an influential circulation than through a book. If he is important enough to be assured that the press will discuss his book adequately, or if his subject is too complicated and vast for newspaper articles, he will naturally prefer the less ephemeral form. Cases of another kind are, however, the more numerous, and to a man who feels that his volume, that has cost years of preparation, may probably only get a success of esteem—half a dozen favourable notices and three months of circulating library existence—the temptation to write in the form that is certain to count readers by thousands, and likely to provoke discussion, is very great, even if his motives are purely disinterested. If, like many authors, he lives to some extent by his pen, the attraction of journalism is incomparably stronger. A list of really successful books that have paid nothing or very little to their authors would include some names of distinction, and many of men who might have done reasonably well if they had put their thoughts into an ephemeral form.
Now, that the press, being as it is bound to be a great power in modern society, should be perpetually recruited from the best thinking ability of the day is in itself highly desirable. What we are bound, however, to regard as an offset to the manifest advantages of the free promulgation and discussion of public matters, is the fact that the journalist's work, calculated as it is for the day's needs, is rarely sufficient for anything beyond. In some cases a man employed for a time on the press has also done permanent work, and the reverence attaching to his name has caused the ephemerides to be collected and preserved. Will any one say that the political articles of Coleridge and Heine, even the literary articles of Goethe, were in any way worthy of their genius? To take more modern instances, is Sir Henry Maine likely to be remembered by his articles in the Saturday Review? or Mr. R. H. Hutton by his contributions to the Spectator? In all these cases the work bears the impress of the master's genius, but the form is of transitory interest. No doubt, Pascal's most celebrated work was thrown into the form of fugitive letters; and Swift was practically a journalist; and Junius is reputed a classic; and Courier's Letters to the Censeur are not easily distinguishable from his other works. Each case has to be examined separately. Pascal put the argument for secular society against churchmen in general, for the inflexible law against moral casuistry, into a form that made it intelligible to the fashionable and popular reader. Whether modern journalism could tolerate so much abstruse controversy is questionable; but at any rate Pascal's genius was exceptional, and much of the Letters preserves its vitality from being still applicable to Continental Catholicism. Of Junius, I confess to thinking that he has been extravagantly overrated. He had the good fortune to come at a time when the art of trenchant writing had suffered temporary eclipse, and to espouse popular views against the Court; but Macaulay's casual remark that he was "a most unequal writer," and De Rémusat's verdict, that he had "more cleverness than inspiration," pretty well reduce him to his proper level. On the whole Swift and Courier seem to be the best instances of transcendent journalism. Now Swift, who is undoubtedly the greatest name in English literature between Milton and Burke, did much more bad work than good when he wrote for the moment. Out of thirty-two articles which he contributed to the Examiner, the one comparing Marlborough to Crassus is the only one that lives and is most remembered. No one but a scholar now reads the pamphlet on the Conduct of the Allies, or that on the Barrier Treaty. The really successful work Swift did as a journalist in the modern sense was in his Drapier's Letters; and even these, and some of the pamphlets on Irish matters, owe their real importance to the fact that the author, almost unconsciously, transcended his own purpose, and advocated the more permanent interests of his country, self-government, and an administration that should be regardful of the poor. Even so Swift owes his place among the immortals to the Tale of a Tub and to Gulliver's Travels, rather than to his attacks on the policy of his own day. We may say equally of Courier—in spite of his own admirable defence of the pamphlet—that he is always best when he handles an adequate theme; and that his Letters to the Censeur would not have been preserved if he had not written the Pamphlet des Pamphlets and the Réponse aux Lettres Anonymes. Now Courier was a very remarkable and very rare combination. Delécluze tells us that his real passion was to turn a phrase in the happiest possible style; and that he was not so much a fanatical as a Rabelaisian critic of whatever seemed extravagant and grotesque in administration. Courier therefore is an exceptional instance of the best conceivable man for newspaper work; a man who is not so much concerned with the thought itself as with the way of putting it before the world. It is surely not unreasonable to think that, as a rule, men who write with the sense that they will not be remembered, and that only the immediate impression is of importance, will differ from those who "speak to time and to eternity," as the moulder in wax differs from the artist in marble or in bronze.
The influence of deep religious feeling and the influence of exalted intellectual energy have been of such incomparable importance in moulding individual character hitherto, that if we assume them to be powerfully reduced it is difficult to see what can take their place. The love of country or reverence for the State which seems likely to supersede both Church organisation and the tradition of family life, is hardly a principle that will strengthen initiative or self-reliance. Now and again, no doubt, in some great time of crisis the State may have to appeal to the self-devotion and fertility of resource of its citizens, but that great times of crisis wars and social convulsions will become less and less frequent, more and more temporary in their duration, and increasingly mild in the changes they cause, seems a consummation as probable as it is desirable. There remains, however, the .question, just worth notice, whether a change in the physical conditions of human life may not affect character for the better. Science has done a great deal, and is constantly holding out the hope of more. Let us assume its anticipations realised— sickness, which includes every form of epidemic, eliminated; the science of healing enormously improved; the average of life prolonged by ten or twenty years; and all this consolidated by the State Socialism which insists upon healthy homes and provides adequate wages. It is no great stretch of imagination to look forward to the day when there shall be a reasonable expectation of life for every child born, when the sorrow of premature bereavement shall be rarely felt, and when even the population of large towns, from which we cannot expect an exuberant vitality, may have such an average of wiry strength and capacity to work and enjoy as will at least render life tolerable. Should these anticipations be realised, it would seem that society ought to gain as it has gained in past years by the political improvements that have made life and property secure, or by the inventions and engineering works that have reduced the frequency of famines. To take exceptional instances, times like the breaking up of the Roman Empire in Europe, the rise of Mahratta power in India, or the Tae-Ping revolt in China, were times that demoralised the imagination and paralysed industry. Even the ploughman and the shepherd very often renounced toil which seemed profitless and turned themselves to plunder or vagabondage, but much more was the higher commerce extinguished and the educated professions died out. At Y present war is the only great source of ruin that seems likely to be permanent, and even wars are less frequent and shorter and more humane, and lead to less violent change where conquest is absolute. Of political convulsions like the French Revolution we may probably say that they also are likely to be mitigated by the ghastly recollection of the ruin they cause, and by the remedy for. social unrest which the spread of liberal institutions offers. The worst effects of floods and droughts are now obviated by the great facilities for international traffic. Therefore, if we can conceive cholera, typhus, and all such diseases extirpated by sanitary science, the diseases that scourge immorality disappearing before a rigid police, and cures, such as are even now anticipated, actually discovered for consumption and cancer, perhaps even for diseases of the liver and kidneys, it will not be too much to say that the present expectation of life under healthy conditions would be more than doubled. Tennyson has alluded to the great stimulus hope would derive if we were
In lieu of many mortal flies, a race
Of giants, living each a thousand years.
It does not seem possible that we should ever attain to the thousand years, but there is perhaps nothing palpably unreasonable in assuming that ninety may be for some coming generation what seventy is in our own days; that the death-rate of children, which is one-third in Victoria for the very young of what it is for Austria, Italy, and Spain, may be reduced very far below the healthiest average at present; and that for the ordinary adult illnesses may come to be so manageable as to be hardly taken into account in the scheme of life. In this case it would seem that the generation would be far more able than now to "see its own work out," and that self-confidence, which is an efficient spring of energy, would be proportionately increased. To take a single instance from literature, Gibbon was only fifty-one when he completed the great work which is an epoch in historical literature. It had taken him twenty-seven years to perfect, and his expectation of life, as he himself tells us, allowed him only about fifteen years more. He seems to have decided that, after taking the rest which was his just due, it would be too late for him to attempt any new task. Yet had his expectation of life been of thirty years instead of fifteen, his decision might have been different, and the world, had his life actually been prolonged, might have been the richer by a work showing Gibbon's ripest learning and maturest thought.
Against this consideration we must perhaps set the fact that a world in which the term of life is sensibly prolonged will be predominantly a world of old people. Unless we can assume, what is most unlikely, that the struggle for existence will become less and less severe as numbers multiply and the earth fills up, we must suppose that countries in the Temperate Zone at least will gradually approximate more and more to the stationary state. Society will accommodate itself to this by late marriages or by conjugal agreements to limit the number of children; and while the proportion of men and women over fifty is now, let us say, one in eight, it may easily come to be one in six. At this moment the proportion of persons over sixty-five in France, the capital instance of a civilised country that is stationary, is nearly double what it is England and more than double the proportion in America or Australia, not because the average of life is higher, for it is rather lower, but because the proportion of children born is so incomparably smaller. Now, it may be admitted that none of the evils which Swift depicted as incident to the condition of the Struldbrugs would be likely to arise where the duration of life was still limited, and where physical strength was continued as now till within a short time of decay and death. What we have to suppose is that men with the admirable vitality of Newman, Gladstone, Radetsky, Moltke, Bismarck, Littré, Chevreuil, and Lesseps will become increasingly common, and that, as, in cases where the exact reason is more required than quick insight and promptitude of action or alacrity of eye and ear, the best work is very often done by the old, we may get an increasing average of the best work. We may even conjecture that the predominance of experienced and reflective men in a population—for those between forty-five and ninety might easily come to be more numerous than those between twenty and forty-five—would be an important conservative force balancing the democratic tendency to impulsive change. Increased stability of political order, increased efficiency of exact thought, are possible advantages that cannot be disregarded.
Yet in some respects they would perhaps be dearly purchased. A restriction of the birth-rate means a diminution of family life with its consecrating cares and pleasures. The protraction of life means that a woman shall outgrow motherhood by forty or fifty instead of by twenty years, and that she and her husband shall relapse practically into the conditions of single life without its liberty or its hopes. The general retarding of marriages will mean the blotting-out of a page of romance which, if often foolish, was almost always bright and animate. That children should be comparatively an infrequent presence will rob life of its most appreciable consolation. But the most visible effect to the world will probably be the decay of energy. If youth is the season of unrest, when change is welcomed for its own sake and when orderly growth is despised, it is also the brooding-time of speculation, the maturing-time of adventure. Old men are probably best fitted for carrying on the mechanical and routine work of the world, but the artists, the poets, the explorers, the propagators of new ideas are habitually to be found among the young. Of two great changes that have powerfully influenced modern society, it may probably be said that both the Reformation and the Revolution owed their impetus to the generation under forty. Wherever war has depended more upon promptitude and insight than upon scientific combinations—that is to say, where it was not imperative to handle great masses and arrange for long distances—the army commanded by a young general—a Condé, a Hoche, or a Napoleon—is apt to triumph over age and military lore. Therefore, if we assume men of middle and of mature age to add the influence of numbers to that which they already get from seniority, it is difficult to suppose that the history of- the. world will not be a great deal tamer in the future than it has been in the past. That life should be essentially sadder and grayer than it has been may mean very little; that it should be less capable of energy and reform, more prone to entrench itself in an established order, will undoubtedly mean that it is passing into its old age, and that those whom the present does not satisfy will have nothing to hope from what is to come.
It has seemed desirable to dwell minutely upon these conditions of character and action, because if religious conviction is replaced by sentimental morality, if imagination and fancy are circumscribed, finding no worlds to occupy, and if the prolongation of physical existence tends to make society as a whole less energetic and confident of its own powers, it is difficult to suppose that any external motives can take the place of faith, intellect, and hope. Nevertheless, it is easy to see that such external motives as the love of power, the love of money, and the love of fame are likely to become less and less powerful as the world becomes more settled and larger. It will always be an object of ambition to be the first man or among the first men in the community. In the past, however, the great man, whether he were the successful soldier, a Caesar or a Napoleon, or the organising statesman, an Augustus Caesar, a Richelieu, or a Chatham, was a man who had a policy of his own, which he was prepared to carry out single-handed. Such men were necessities of an imperfect civilisation. It needed two men of such different, yet sympathetic genius, as Julius and Augustus Caesar to rescue Roman administration and the fortunes of the whole civilised world from the violence and rapacity of the patrician order. Only a dictator could have crushed the nobles, established French unity, and inaugurated a new and national policy as Richelieu did. Only Chatham's will and insight could have given England an empire; and only a soldier, wielding the whole military force of the country, could have rescued France from anarchy. To take the example most easily comprehended, can any one imagine a Pitt in these later times dominating a subservient senate, staking the whole fortunes of England upon wars of only halfcomprehended importance, and, in order to conciliate the king, maintaining a vast army in Germany, though if the nation had one settled conviction it was to avoid Hanoverian entanglements. When Lord Palmerston, one of the most powerful and popular ministers of his time, meditated an intervention in favour of Denmark, he was met with a private remonstrance from a strong section of his supporters, and found that to carry out his policy he would have to rely upon the votes of his opponents. No doubt what is true of England and America is not yet true, to the same extent, of any Continental State. The most that even a hopeful observer can say is that religious wars are less likely to break out than they were, that States are approximating more and more to their natural limits, and that there is a growing disposition to form alliances that may prevent war from taking place, and that may restrict the acquisitions a conqueror makes. Beyond this, however, we may perhaps hope, without being oversanguine, that as the influence of the masses increases, and those masses are educated, they will throw their weight more and more into the scale of peace. Universal conscription has at least had this advantage, that it forces every household in a nation to realise the inconveniences of military service, and to dread the horrors of war. Every improvement that makes civic life more tolerable will tend to the same result. It is probably safe to say that a Cromwell is already impossible in England or the United States, and that a Napoleon is becoming impossible in France. The statesmen of this generation are not the originators of a policy, but the adaptors of innovations endorsed by public opinion. That the change tends incomparably to the advantage of society is probable, but it undoubtedly dwarfs the individual. Of the various attributes which Gray ascribed to power, the statesman in a civilised country retains only one in its completeness. He can command "the applause of listening senates"; but he is only the exponent of his party if he "scatters plenty," and happily he is no longer permitted to "shut the gates of mercy on mankind."
It is conceivable that the statesman's importance may be circumscribed in another and most desirable way. That change will ever cease to be needful cannot be anticipated. Rather as the sphere of State action is enlarged, the obligation ceaselessly to adjust an enlarged legislation to new wants will come to be more sensitively felt. Still it seems possible to suppose that the most momentous changes are already accomplished. The subordination of Church to State, the abolition of forced labour, the suppression of privilege, the right to express opinions with perfect fearlessness, the humanising of the penal code, have been reforms of such transcendent significance that we can hardly conceive any changes in the future that will renew society to the same extent. If women were to receive the suffrage in any great country, the experiment would excite a good deal of noisy feeling on both sides; but it is difficult to suppose that it could have the importance which the first Reform Bill had for its own generation in England. A measure to buy back the lands of a country from their owners, such as has been contemplated in New Zealand, would be as important as the seizure of Church lands in England, or as the confiscations of the French Revolution; but it would in all likelihood be carried out more temperately and equitably, and it would not involve the same tremendous consequences—a change of faith or a sudden transformation of the whole social structure. Moreover, something depends on the more or less sensational manner in which a change is effected. Negro emancipation still impresses the imagination as a very memorable fact. In one sense its importance can hardly be exaggerated, for, by recognising the obligation to free even a half-brutal race, England practically accepted an enhanced duty towards the higher forms of labour. Nevertheless, looking back on it, one can see that the actual expectations entertained of lifting a degraded race to a higher level have been absolutely futile. On the other hand, the reforms of the criminal law, which have abolished pressing to death, burning, torture, and promiscuous hangings for almost every kind of fraud and larceny, have been so gradual that they have passed almost unobserved. It is only if we look back and sum them up that we can estimate their full importance, and we mostly forget the names of the men who carried them. It is probable that change in the future will generally be of the same tentative and orderly kind, giving no great popularity or power to the statesman who has the good fortune to associate himself with some of the details.
Swift, in a characteristic passage, declares that the names of those who have rendered the greatest services to their country are to be found upon no record, except a few of them whom history has represented as the vilest rogues and traitors. As even Swift passionately admired half a dozen great men of antiquity, we must allow for some exaggeration in his trenchant aphorism. It is probably truer to say that the public estimate of notable men has always been capricious, and determined by such conditions as personal magnetism or the popularity of the causes they were connected with. To take one conspicuous instance, no one would seriously doubt at the present day that Sir Eobert Peel was an incomparably greater man than Canning or Lord Althorp or Palmerston; but it is certain that he was more steadily reviled and depreciated than any of these, or than all three together. Fonblanque wrote of him as the Joseph Surface or Tartufe of politics; Disraeli taunted him before an applauding house with "sublime mediocrity."The facts are, that with every private virtue he was a cold ungenial man in mixed society, and his singular fortune impelled him to carry out two distasteful reforms—Catholic Emancipation and Free Trade—which he had for years tried to avert. Still, even in a case of this kind we can see that the circumstances of modern society are incomparably more just to a reputation than those of the ancient world were. Peel as a Roman of the Empire would have come down to us in the pages of a Suetonius or a Tacitus, as the aristocratic clique loved to speak of him; his greatness would have been toned down by epigrammatic sentences, such as we now know to be unjust, and in all likelihood his memory would have been charged with some scandals of which he was wholly innocent. As it is, the worst that has happened has been that Peel never enjoyed during his lifetime the harvest of reputation that was his due, and that the honour we now pay him is as cold and unmeaning as an epitaph. Still the votary of fame, "that last infirmity of noble minds," must lay his account for forfeiting immediate recognition if he wishes to do the purest work in any capacity. Shelley never lived to see his works read, and Wordsworth and Browning were only honoured when they were old. Peel frankly admitted that to Cobden rather than himself should have belonged the honour of passing Free Trade into law; and Cobden was impossible. There is therefore a chance in these matters which is never likely to be eliminated. Beyond this, while the great names of the past are luminous from being few, the prominent men of modern times are jostled in an almost indistinguishable crowd. One of the few of this generation in England, whose reputation in the higher mathematics was more than insular, used to speak regretfully of the chances by which real distinction of intellect was enabled to forge to the front in days when the whole civilised world was scarcely more populous than Scotland and London together are now.
Napoleon is said to have inquired what the lifetime of a great picture was, and being told that in the nature of things it could only last some centuries, to have ejaculated contemptuously, "Quelle belle immortalité!" It is more than conceivable that, as new nations spring into prominence, as the record of past time is extended, as the occupations in which men take interest multiply, fame will become less and less durable, though celebrity will be more and more cheaply purchased. An educated man in Shakespeare's time needed only to burden his memory with a few names, and of those mentioned casually in Montaigne's Essays the larger number are now obscure except to professed scholars. It is probably not too much to say that every great epoch to some extent obliterates one that has gone before it. If Wellington's victories had not been won, Marlborough would still be treasured with pride and familiarly known to Englishmen, and it is noticeable that the memory of the War of Independence has become fainter in the United States since the War of Liberation was fought with results equally momentous and with battles upon an incomparably grander scale. War, however, from its tragical circumstances and far-reaching effects, is the surest passport to immortality. Homer is comparatively forgotten, but Alexander is still a name of glory over great part of the world. Courier, indeed, has argued that some one else would have gained the battle of Kocroi if Condé had not been present, but that no one except Molière could have written the Misanthrope; and draws the inference that literary fame is of more intrinsic worth than military. Against this, however, we have to set the fact that literary fame is circumscribed by the duration of the phase of the language to which it belongs. To a Frenchman of the present day Molière is only a little archaic, and for civilised men generally French is still one of the languages of society which no one dares disregard; but it cannot be fanciful to anticipate a time when Molière will only be read with a sense of strangeness by Frenchmen and as a classic, and when some new literature, such as Russian, will be dividing the attention of highly-educated men. Nevertheless, the old dramatists are always likely to retain the advantage of being unsurpassable in a style that modern times will not care seriously to imitate. What, however, are we to say of lyrical poets, of essayists, of the vast multitude who will compete for distinction in such new forms as the coming age will tolerate, and who will be like the sand of the sea for number? It is surely impossible to suppose that the fame of many thousand men contesting recognition on fairly even terms, and producing fairly even work, will be so individual and distinct as to be a measurable incentive to action. Now, the argument that is good of literature will apply to every field of human activity. As chemists, engineers, physicians, lawyers, politicians, and soldiers multiply, it will be difficult, in the language of an old proverb, to see the trees for the wood.
The love of money is perhaps more likely to survive the changes of modern society than either the lust of power or the passion for fame. Even if we assume the State to encroach more and more upon the domain of private industry, and to undermine large properties with taxes and succession-duties, human nature will still remain with its inextinguishable cravings for whatever gold can purchase, and with a fertility of resource for acquiring wealth that will defy legislation. The experience of the United States, though there has been no modifying cause there like State Socialism, is very instructive up to a certain point. Gold in the United States does not purchase political power, and to some extent disqualifies for it. For a long time it did not even give social distinction, and the class that possessed it was unable to enjoy field-sports or costly pictures, and was limited in its private life by the trouble attending large households in a new country. Nevertheless, men went on speculating and accumulating with far more avidity than in Europe, and were very often content to find their reward in the lace and jewels which their wives wore. There was the desire to achieve success against competitors, and there was perhaps a feeling that if wealth was acquired the science of enjoying wealth would gradually be learned. With a few there was the honourable wish to connect their names with great public benefits—to found a Girard College or a Cornell University. It is conceivable that State Socialism, while it reduces the chances of money-making, will even increase its desirability. If we assume industry and property to pass more and more under the control of the State, we are almost bound to assume a large body of State functionaries, none of whom the democratic temper will permit to be very highly paid. A system that turned physicians into public officers salaried by the State, as vaccinators now are in some countries, would almost certainly make no important distinction between the highest and the lowest talent. Unless, therefore, private practice were forbidden, the ablest men would entrench themselves in this, and would probably make larger incomes than they at present do, as they would refer all pauper patients to the State medical men. Again, though it is possible to conceive the State monopolising all the land and all the mines, it is difficult to think that it could set itself to monopolise production and distribution. It may conceivably limit, the occupation of land so as to prevent the building up of large leaseholds, but it can hardly forbid the purchase of corn and cotton on the most extensive scale. Neither can it prevent a particular mine from turning out fabulously rich and giving enormous dividends to its lessees. Even the expedient of taxes designed to break up large properties can only be cautiously applied, as it is certain to be met by evasions and corruption of State officials. Therefore, in the most extreme and hypothetical case that seems at present possible, when the State has taken to itself all land, railways, steamers, canals, tramways, waterworks, gasworks, telegraphs, and telephones, has salaried the professions, and has even invaded finance with a State bank, there will still remain infinite possibilities for speculation and for the amassing of great fortunes. The distance between wealth and competence will indeed be more sharply accentuated than it is at present, for large professional incomes and inherited fortunes will be comparatively rare, and these it is which at present fill up the interval between the small ordinary stipends of clerical work and the great gains of the speculator.
That the passion for wealth will be a little changed in one respect is perhaps conceivable. Hitherto it has generally been associated with the desire to found a family. If, however, we conceive the family ties weakened, and it has been argued that many changes are conspiring to this result, and an active interposition of the State to prevent the transmission of property in great sums, wealth will come to be valued especially with a view to present consideration and enjoyment. The type of the old-fashioned miser is already obsolete except among the uneducated, and if these changes in social structure come to pass it will rapidly be discarded everywhere. The ideal of men with the money-grasping intelligence will be to realise the capacities of a Monte Cristo, not of course for a steady purpose of revenge, but for opportunities of magnificent ostentation.
Summing up, then, we seem to find that we are slowly but demonstrably approaching what we may regard as the age of reason or of a sublimated humanity; and that this will give us a great deal that we are expecting from it—well-ordered polities, security to labour, education, freedom from gross superstitions, improved health and longer life, the destruction of privilege in society and of caprice in family life, better guarantees for the peace of the world, and enhanced regard for life and property when war unfortunately breaks out. It is possible to conceive the administration of the most advanced states so equitable and efficient that no one will even desire seriously to disturb it. On the other hand, it seems reasonable to assume that religion will gradually pass into a recognition of ethical precepts and a graceful habit of morality; that the mind will occupy itself less and less with works of genius, and more and more with trivial results and ephemeral discussions; that husband and wife, parents and children, will come to mean less to one another; and that romantic feeling will die out in consequence; that the old will increase upon the young; that two great incentives to effort, the desire to use power for noble ends, and the desire to be highly esteemed, will come to promise less to capable men as the field of human energy is crowded; and generally that the world will be left without deep convictions or enthusiasm, without the regenerating influence of the ardour for political reform, and the fervour of pious faith which have quickened men for centuries past as nothing else has quickened them, with a passion purifying the soul. It would clearly be unreasonable to murmur at changes that express the realisation by the world of its highest thought, whether the issue be good or bad. The etiolated religion which it seems likely we shall subside upon; the complicated but on the whole satisfactory State mechanism, that will prescribe education, limit industry, and direct enjoyment, will become, when they are once arrived at, natural and satisfactory. The decline of the higher classes as an influence in society, the organisation of the inferior races in menacing forms throughout the Tropical Zone, are the natural result of principles that we cannot disown if we would. It would be impossible for a conservatively - minded monarch to reconstruct the nobility of the eighteenth century in the twentieth; and even now no practical statesman could dream of arresting Chinese power or Hindoo or negro expansion by wholesale massacres. The world is becoming too fibreless, too weak, and too good to contemplate or to carry out great changes which imply lamentable suffering. It trusts more and more to experience; less and less to insight and will.
The Medea of Corneille, face to face with supreme misfortune, was able to say that there at least remained to her herself. But that which is the saving hope of a strong character is the denial of hope to a generation of weak men. What is a society that has no purpose beyond supplying the day's needs, and amusing the day's vacuity, to do with the terrible burden of personality? It is doomed to live on into the ages, with all that the best ordered polity can secure it, with all inherited treasures of beauty, with a faith in science that is perpetually mocked by weaker and weaker results, and with no spiritual sense to understand what surrounds it, with the mind's vision growing dim, with the apprehension of art dwarfed to taking comfort in bric-a-brac, with no hope or suggestion of sight beyond the grave. In the old age of the plant the roots continue to thicken out and deepen down, when there is neither blossom nor fruit. The spectacle of an old man with his intellect keen, with his experience bitter, with his appetites unsatiated, with the memory of past enjoyment stinging him, and deprived of the physical power to enjoy, is so familiar that we accept it as one of the commonplaces of life. Scarcely any one remembers that he will in turn live on into such an old age, if he does not sacrifice daily to the invisible powers; and even less does any of us assume that the world may easily put on this form of decrepitude:
The consummation coming past escape,
When we shall live most, and yet least enjoy.
Our morality will then be the emasculate tenderness of those who shrink from violence, not because it is a transgression of order, but because it is noisy and coarse; and having outlived strong passions, and the energy by which will translates itself into act, we shall plume ourselves on having abolished vice. Our intellectual discipline will be derived from the year-book and the review, and our intellectual pleasure from the French novel. Yet there seems no reason why men of this kind should not perpetuate the race, increasing and multiplying, till every rood of earth maintains its man, and the savour of vacant lives will go up to God from every home.
As an offset to these forebodings, it is undoubtedly well to remember that the world has passed through evil times before and has outlived them. It may even be admitted that wherever men have reflected enough to occupy themselves with forecasts of the future, their presentiments have been apt to take colour from their surroundings, and have sometimes been needlessly sombre. History tells us that the days upon which Gibbon afterwards looked back as the happiest humanity had known were days in which Christians and Jews were expecting the crash of the world, and in which the wisest of Roman Emperors gave it as a counsel of perfection, that the man who felt God within him should be ready for death as for a trumpet's call. At a later time, which we now look back to as the golden season of romance and chivalry, England was covered with religious foundations created avowedly, as the charter of one of them states, because all things were tending visibly to extinction. In the first of these cases the depression of thoughtful men was greater than the actual state of the world warranted; in the second, than facts later on justified; and yet if Marcus Aurelius could have seen the state of the world in the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries, or if the pessimists of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries had lived on into the fifteenth, when Pecock was able to say that "ever more the world decreaseth in people," they might have found abundant warrant for their despondency. On the other hand, history reminds us also that there have been two ages in which the world was hopeful and sanguinely self-confident. The first was the period when printing had conquered back a lost territory for the mind, and when the discovery of America offered a new world to Christendom in exchange for the lost East. These dreams of enlightenment and prosperity were the prelude to bloody religious wars extending over more than a century. The second time, of which those who shared its delirium have said, as one great contemporary said of the first, that merely to live in it was a joy, was the period that preceded the French Revolution—a time when men were dreaming that all which philosophy recommended could be inaugurated without bloodshed by decrees and mutual embraces and the planting of trees of liberty. There was some disenchantment from those dreams also. On the whole, neither our despondency nor our cheerful expectation can be assumed to correspond with any real forecast of the future. For a man to argue that he will recover from senile decay because he has outlived fever and a fall from his horse, would clearly be irrational. Neither do we, in fact, attach much importance to arguments of this sort. They are stimulating for a man or a nation in difficulties, but they lack the proportion necessary for comparison when we come to deal with the system of the Universe. What we mostly trust to, perhaps, is the sentiment expressed by Tennyson, that "somehow good will be the final goal of ill," and we either assume that we shall go on to all time vindicating the Creator's purpose by the mellowing perfection of our lives, or at least that we shall be allowed some centuries during which we may mature and sweeten in a world where incalculable terms of life seem already to have been allotted to the lower types. This man argues that we shall last as long as the coal-measures, and this other that there is no reason why the race should die out till the earth itself shall have begun to cool down into a skeleton of rock without atmosphere or central heat. Assume this protracted existence, and it seems natural to suppose that we are at present only in the infancy of man, and to anticipate that our remote descendants may be as far superior to ourselves in polity and intelligence as we are to the tribes of the lake period.
It is natural and perhaps good to indulge in these dreams, which encourage us to continued effort; but it is impossible not to remember that they derive no warrant from the analogies of nature, so far as we can be said to understand the natural world. If the recent surmises of geologists are correct, man has already been an inhabitant of the earth for some very long period, whether we measure it by tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of years, and has only had a history worth recording for some forty centuries at most. Even during historical times, so-called, the world has mostly been peopled by races, either like the negro very little raised above the level of brutes, or at best, like the lower-caste Hindoo and the Chinaman, of such secondary intelligence as to have added nothing permanent to our stock of ideas. At this moment, though the civilised and progressive races have till quite recently been increasing upon the inferior types, and though the lowest forms of all are being exterminated, there seems, as we have seen, good warrant for assuming that the advantage has already passed to the lower forms of humanity, and indeed it appears to be a well-ascertained law that the races which care little for comfort and decency are bound to tide over bad times better than their superiors, and that the classes which reach the highest standard are proportionally short-lived. Nay, so profusely is life given in excess of what we can account the efficient use made of it, so many purposeless generations seem to pass away before humanity is in travail of a prophet or a thinker, that some inquirers have actually defined the method of creation as a law of waste. "To work in vain," said the author of The Plurality of Worlds, "is so far from being contrary to the usual proceedings of nature that it is an operation which is constantly going on in every part of nature." Of the weeds we trample down every one represents a wealth of wasted germs; of the fish that people the deep not one but is the fortunate survivor where, it may be, a million possible existences have perished before birth, and these again, if we go further back, represent other and often higher types that were animate and are extinct. Above us the infinite distances of space are studded with orbs, of almost all of which we can say more or less certainly that if they admit life at all it is not our life. Have we any warrant for assuming that man, the creature of a moment in time, the inhabitant of a speck in space, is really the heir of all the ages, or anything more than a sublimated form of terrestrial life, which will have its youth, its maturity, and its decay like everything else hitherto created. Science, with its record of glacial epochs and its forecast of vanishing heat; religion, with its warning that "the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up," do not speak of life, but of death.
Happily, what the distant future of the world may be is a matter that does not much concern us, and about which we may rejoice to know nothing. It is quite possible that if the noblest Greeks and Romans had foreseen how short-lived the supremacy of Athens was to be, or at what cost of national character the empire of the world was to be achieved by Rome, they would have folded their arms, or have set sail, as Sertorius thought of doing, in quest of the Fortunate Isles, where life was nothing more than lotos-eating. We are able to see that though the aspirations of patriotism have been defeated, the greater world of humanity has been the richer for what these men ventured and thought. Should it so be that something like what the Norsemen conceived as "the twilight of the gods" is coming upon the earth, and that there will be a temporary eclipse of the higher powers, we may at least prepare- for it in the spirit of the Norsemen, who, as the Ynglinga Saga tells us, deemed that whether God gave them victory or called them home to himself either award was good. We are so accustomed to the fierce rapture of struggle and victory, to that rough training of necessity by which the weak are destroyed, to revolutions of the political order, transferences of power and wealth, and discoveries in science, that we can hardly conceive a quiet old age of humanity, in which it may care only for sunshine and food and quiet, and expect nothing great from the toil of hand or thought. Knowing something of the limitations and very little of the capabilities of our moral nature, it is perhaps natural we should shrink from the prospect that the classes which have been the depository of refinement and breeding will be submerged below the level of democracy, that distinctions of rank and fortune, of character and intellect, will become unimportant, that the family with its consecrated memories and duties will be transformed into a genial partnership of independent wills, that fancy and imagination will find no expression in literature, and that the faiths for which men have lived and died in times past will only survive as topics of meditation or as the discipline of ethical practice. When the gods of Greece passed away with the great Pan, nature lost its divinity, but society was overshadowed by a holier presence. When Christianity itself began to appear grotesque and incredible, men reconciled themselves to the change by belief in an age of reason, of enlightment, of progress. It is now more than probable that our science, our civilisation, our great and real advance in the practice of government are only bringing us nearer to the day when the lower races will predominate in the world, when the higher races will lose their noblest elements, when we shall ask nothing from the day but to live, nor from the future but that we may not deteriorate. Even so, there will still remain to us ourselves. Simply to do our work in life, and to abide the issue, if we stand erect before the eternal calm as cheerfully as our fathers faced the eternal unrest, may be nobler training for our souls than the faith in progress.
- Plutarch's Life of Nicias. Plutarch quotes from Phrynichus: "A good citizen; one who does not walk the streets with a hang-dog look like Nicias."
- De Imitatione Christi, lib. i. c. 13, § 6.
- Luther's Tisch-Reden, in. c. 26, § 44.
- Compare Rousseau, by training a Calvinist, and at the time "demi-Janséniste," throwing a stone at a tree, and deciding, that if it hit, it would be a sign of his salvation. It hit; and "depuis lors, je n'ai plus doute de mon salut."—Confessions, Part I. livre vi.
- Christian Year, Hymn for All Saints' Day.
- Roper's Life of More, ed. Singer, p. 169, note 19.
- Plotini Enneades, lib. ix. c. 10. "καὶ οὕτω θεῶν καὶ ἀνθρώπων θείων καὶ εὐδαιμόνων βίος, ἀπαλλαγὴ τῶν ἄλλων τῶν τᾕδε βίος ἀνήδονος τῶν τᾔδε, φυγὴ μόνου πρὸς μόνον."
- "Il (Sextus) porte toujours avec lui ce qu'il sera." Théodicée. Leibnitz, Opera, vol. vi. pp. 359-363.
- Soneto á Cristo crucificado.—Obras de Santa Teresa, p. 537.
- There is a tradition that Tartufe was drawn from Roquette, Bishop of Autun, a very ordinary type of the intriguing priest (Biographie Universelle, art. "Moliere"). Michelet appears to identify Tartufe with Desmarets, an illumine, and quotes the line:
"Priez Dieu que toujours le ciel vous illumine."
Henri Martin describes him as "Pathée travesti en Jésuite." The only point that Tartufe has in common with the Jesuits is casuistry. " On trouve avec le ciel des accommodements." On the other hand, Louis XIV. would hardly have tolerated an attack on the Jesuits, and Tartufe's ostentation of austerity is incomparably more a Jansenist than a Jesuit trait. The great hatred the clergy generally had for the play appears due to the fact that in the first sketch Tartufe was a clerical confessor (Martin, Hist. de France, tome xiii. p. 678). It seems safest, however, to hold that Tartufe was hypocrisy incarnate rather than any particular hypocrite; and we know from Mdme. de Sevigne (Lettres, Dec. 1, 1664) that the Chancellor Seguier was described as "la metamorphose de Pierrot en Tartufe."
- It may be added that as late as 1808 the Portland Administration intended to put the Duke of York in command of the British army in Spain, passing over Wellington. Fortunately, the newspapers learned what was in the air, and attacked it so violently as to make it impossible.—Greville's Memoirs, vol. I. p. 64.
- E.g. in 1866, when Mr. Beales headed the Reform demonstration; and in 1884, when 80,000 men met in Hyde Park; and in February 1886, when there were riots.
- The "loi centre les attroupements" of April 10, 1831, forbids open-air meetings, under penalties going up to two years' imprisonment, and three years' loss of electoral rights.
- In the case of Yee Quock Ping. The Victorian courts upheld this decision of the Medical Board.
- He did this in the College of Reichenau, near Coire, in the Grisons, rising every morning at four to do his work, and remaining in the occupation for fifteen months under the name of Corby. He owed his appointment to the patronage of General de Montesquieu.—Stephens, French Revolution, vol. ii.. p. 509; Memoirs of Mdme. de Genlis, vol. iv. p. 180, note by editor.
- Gordon, Le Fort, Schein, Patkul, Münnich, Villebois, Greig, Elphinstone, Benningsen, Wittgenstein, and Pozzo di Borgo.
- Memoirs of Mdme. de Rémusat, vol. ii. p. 414.
- Godwin had to disguise himself under the alias of Baldwin when he went into business as a bookseller.
"Wir beten es gescheh', mein Herr und Gott, dein Wille."
"Und sieh, er hat kein Will', er bleibt ein' ewige Stille."
Deutsche Liebe, S. 74.
- Dr. Erasmus Darwin proposed to temper the climate of tropical zones by rigging icebergs up with sails and letting them drift southward. Tschernischevski, in his What is to be Done? anticipates the time when the ploughman will go out from his home in a splendid club to set machines going which will relieve him of all work, while he is sheltered by an awning from sun and rain (p. 338).
- The late Professor H. J. S. Smith was inclined to think this possible and worth working for.
- See the account of P. L. Courier's later life in the Souvenirs de Soixante Annees, by Delecluze, pp. 248-252.
- Balzac in Le Père Goriot.
- Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair; Sir R. Howard's The Committee. Compare Scrapeall in Shadwell's Squire of Alsatia.
- Perhaps as strong an instance as any of the way in which later writers are circumscribed by the existence of a recognised type is to be found in the influence exerted by Molière's Misanthrope. The character of Alceste has been imitated by Wycherley in the Plain Dealer, and by Marivaux in Les Sincères. Wycherley in the effort to be original has made his honest man boisterous and brutal, while Marivaux has refined him away into a very ordinary gentleman, who is a little wanting in tact.
- Cardinal Newman has expressed this opinion: "It is melancholy to say it, but the chief, perhaps the only English writer who has any claim to be considered an ecclesiastical historian is Gibbon."—On the Development of Christian Doctrine, p. 5.
- Professor Agassiz told me this himself.
- Christian Ethics, by the Rev. W. Sewell.
- Essay on Dramatic Poetry.
- "Heaven, that but once was prodigal before,
To Shakespeare gave as much, she could not give him more."
—Epistle to my dear friend Mr. Congreve.
- Preface to Shakespeare.
- The Fair Penitent is taken wholesale from the Fatal Dowry—See Cunningham's Life of Massinger, p. 18.
- Lothair, vol. ii. chap. xxxv.
- "There have been the strongest expressions of interest," says George Eliot in her Diary; "some persons adhering to the opinion, started during the early numbers, that the book is my best." George Eliot's Life, vol. iii. p. 298. Even M. Scherer hesitated to express, what he evidently felt, that the book was a comparative failure—Essays, p. 60.
- Lord Chesterfield, a very favourable judge of Lord Chatham, put him below Bolingbroke and Mansfield for "undeviating eloquence," but above them for "the strength of thunder and the splendour of lightning." In one place he says that his matter is generally flimsy, and his argu- arguments often weak."—Letters, Feb. 2, 1751. On the other hand, he allowed him the praise of great versatility; " he excelled in the argumentative, as well as the declamatory way."—Character of Lord Chatham. Lord Brougham says that he was charged with often passing from the sublime to the ludicrous.—Statesmen of the time of George III. And Lord Macaulay says, that "his merit was almost entirely rhetorical," and that "his style was not always in the purest taste."—Essay on Chatham. Lord Lytton sums him up: "Others take force from judgment, fancy, thought; Chatham from passion."—St. Stephen's, Part I.
- Rae's Wilkes, Sheridan, and Fox, pp. 218-233.
- "Shall we, who have laid the proud British lion at our feet, now be afraid of his whelps?"—Tyler's Life of Patrick Henry, p. 260.
- Demosthenes, de Corona, p. 297.
- Essay on Warren Hastings.
- De Rémusat, L'Angleterre au Dix-huitième Siècle, tome ii. p. 191.
- M. Cousin has developed this idea very forcibly in the preface to Jacqueline Pascal (pp. 5-7), "Un homme sérieux n'écrit que par nécessité, et parcequ'autrement il ne peut atteindre son but."
- For children under five in Victoria it is 38middot;6; for the same age in Spain, 106-2; in Italy, 110; and in Austria, 111-7.—Hayter's Victorian Year-Book for 1889-90, § 630, and Mulhall's Dictionary of Statistics, p. 127.
- "The laws of probability … still allow about fifteen years."—Memoirs of my Life and Writings, by Gibbon, p. 127.
- 810 in the 10,000 in France against 458 in England and Wales, 350 in the United States, and from 119 to 254 in Australia.—Hayter's Year-Book, 1889-90, § 140.
- Voyage to Laputa, chap. viii.
- Fonblanque's England under Seven Administrations, vol. iii. pp. 182, 183.
- M'Carthy's History of our own Times, vol. ii. p. 214.
- With the single exception of the Cenci, which went through two editions in his lifetime.
- The late Professor Henry J. S. Smith.
- Conversations chez la Comtesse d'Albany.
- Mrs. Kemble (Butler) gives some instructive instances of this in a note beginning, "I have nowhere seen extravagance to compare with that of American women."—Further Records, vol. ii. p. 48.
- "Dans un si grand revers que vous reste-t-il?" "Moi. Moi, dis-j', et c'est assez."—Médée, Acte ii. Scène 5.
- "περιμένων τὸ ἀνακλητικὸν ἐκ τοῦ βίου εὔλυτος."—Marc. Aurel. Antonin. lib. iii. p. 38.
- "Quia omnia tenclunt visibiliter ad non esse."—Statutes of Oriel College.
- Pecock's Repressor of overmuch blaming of the Clergy, part iii. chap. v.
- "Sertorius … conceived a strong desire to fix himself in those islands, where he might live in perfect tranquillity at a distance from the evils of tyranny and war."—Plutarch's Life of Sertorius.
- Ynglinga Saga, chap. x.